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Koreans to Receive Medical Treatment from Foreign Hospitals in Free Economic Zones

Koreans to Receive Medical Treatment from Foreign Hospitals in Free Economic Zones

Posted June. 17, 2004 21:37,   


The Ministry of Finance and Economy is working on a plan to open foreign hospitals, which are supposed to be built around 2008 in free economic zones including Incheon, Busan and Gwangyang in South Jeolla Province, to Korean natives.

The Finance Ministry said it had submitted a “revised plan on government legislation in 2004” to the Ministry of Legislation and inserted a revised bill on designation and operation of free economic zones into that plan on June 17.

Even though Finance Ministry has unofficially hinted at its opinion that foreign hospitals in free economic zones should give medical treatment to Koreans, it is the first time it has been officially expressed in the form of an official government document.

According to the revised bill, the regulation banning foreign hospitals from giving medical treatment to Korean people will be abolished. It is stipulated that doctors working for foreign hospitals can’t give medical treatment to Korean natives in the present regulations.

The Finance Ministry also decided to consider the plan to authorize foreign doctor licenses acquired in their own countries to allow those doctors from medically developed countries to give medical service to Korean people.

The Ministry is also planning not to apply domestic health insurance when Korean people receive medical treatment in foreign hospitals in order to help foreign hospitals to be built up in free economic zones make profits.

The ministry will submit the revised bill to parliament in September after it undergoes a review by the Ministry of Legislation in August.

“As far as I know, the Finance Ministry and the Ministry of Health and Welfare, which is competent ministry concerning health care, have come to a mutual agreement on the discipline to revise the laws,” said Bahk Byong-won, Deputy Finance Minister.

Medical circles are reacting to this plan, saying it is reverse discrimination to allow foreign hospitals, which will get various taxation benefits for being located in free economic zones, to give medical treatment to Korean people.

“We don’t object to foreign hospitals moving into free economic zones, but it’s a problem not to give domestic medical personnel opportunities for competition under the same conditions,” said Kwon Yong-jin, spokesman of the Korean Medical Association

The Ministry of Health and Welfare is expressing disapproval of the Finance Ministry’s announcement of its intention to revise laws under the circumstances that the consultation among ministries and agencies has not been completed yet, and a dispute is expected to occur. In the meantime, Health Minister Kim Wha-joong announced last October that the Ministry couldn’t allow foreign hospitals to give medical treatment to Korean people unless the part of medical service isn’t expanded to 30 percent.

Jin-Hup Song jinhup@donga.com