How much does insulin cost in Korea? Not much!

diabetes cost of insulin in korea

About a year ago, I said to myself, “Gosh, I bet there are people out there who would like to know how much insulin costs in Korea!” And yes, I said that to myself in italics and with great enthusiasm.

And it just so happened that one of my coworkers at the time was a Type 1 diabetic. Hooray, his misery is my gain! I guess? Adam, if you’re reading this, sorry!! Haha. Also, sorry you got canned.

Anyway, during one of our leisurely vape breaks at work, I asked Adam how much he was forking out for the drug that literally keeps him alive.

I jotted down what he told me and then promptly forgot all about writing about the cost of insulin in Korea. As a Type 2 diabetic, insulin isn’t part of my routine, so f**k it, right?!

Well, it turns out there’s at least one person who actually wants to know about the price tag on insulin doses in Korea, and her name is Gabby. She wrote this comment on a recent post I wrote about kimchi jjigae:

Hi Michael!

I am thoroughly enjoying your blog posts and laughing with my friend, who has been with me throughout my college experience as a diabetic. I have type 1 diabetes and I find your blog SUPER helpful. I’m considering moving to Seoul for a year-long study abroad program and other websites have been vague, at best, but I do know that I would be required to pay for Korean health insurance during my time there. I was wondering if you had any info on a ROUGH estimate on how expensive insulin vials are (or how easy it is to get medical devices for insulin pumps or Continuous Glucose Monitors)? You don’t have to do much digging – it’s fine if you say I have no clue!

Anything you could share, even if it is a joke or a “hell no, I have no idea kid” would be greatly appreciated!! 


First of all … thanks, Gabby! I’m really glad you’re getting something out of all the dumb stuff I write on this poor little blog.

And second, I always appreciate it when people take the time to comment. I don’t consider myself a great source of diabetes wisdom, but when questions get asked, I will try to answer them if I can.

So here we are, a year after I pumped poor Adam for info, and thankfully the notes I jotted down are still intact. Here’s exactly what I wrote:

1 pin: $10
1 vial: $4
Doctors will give you insulin

$60-70/mo no insurance
$40 w/insurance

Adam and I used to talk about the insane costs of insulin in the U.S. and how it would be really cool if we could hook up diabetics on “medical tourism” trips with the drugs they need. I believe insulin has to be refrigerated, so Korea’s not really the ideal place for that kind of thing, but you know … we were just shooting the shit.

But that shit-shooting led to the part of our conversation where Adam revealed that doctors in Korea are pretty liberal with their insulin prescriptions.

In other words, you typically don’t need to jump through a lot of hoops (e.g., blood tests and waiting) in order to get an insulin prescription.

You can’t get high on insulin (right?) and there’s not exactly a black market demand for it, so doctors have no need to suspect any foul play when a request is made.

So according to Adam, you can basically walk into almost any doctor’s office, scream I NEED SOME GODDAM INSULIN, and walk out with a prescription.

Unfortunately, I know literally nothing about insulin pumps and Continuous Glucose Monitors. But, assuming insulin costs in Korea haven’t dramatically changed since my talk with Adam, it seems fair to say that insulin in Korea is very, very affordable.

Gabby, I hope you find this information useful! And I don’t know where you’re coming from, but if you’re coming from the U.S., spending a year here while coronavirus (hopefully) goes away is probably a smart idea. Korea is mostly very good at keeping that shit in check. America, not so much. And think of all that deliciously cheap insulin you’ll have access to!

And Adam, I hope you’re doing well and staying totally ripped. If I’m ever in the unfortunate position of having to eat you in order to stay alive, I’m starting with your triceps. They’re so … meaty!