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Korea Seeks to Attract 100,000 Foreign Patients by 2012

Posted January. 01, 2009 07:03,   


With an aim to attract 100,000 foreign patients per year by 2012, the Health, Welfare and Family Affairs Ministry declared 2009 as the year to build health infrastructure yesterday.

Health Minister Jeon Jae-hee said in her New Year’s speech, “The ministry will strive to secure new growth engines in the healthcare industry and provide necessary support to attract foreign patients by utilizing cutting-edge medical technology.”

Prior to this, the ministry briefed President Lee Myung-bak last week as part of a New Year business plan.

To effectively implement the plan, the ministry will help university hospitals set up clinics exclusive to foreign patients.

Foreign workers employed by overseas Korean companies will also be allowed to get medical service in domestic hospitals.

Coordinators and marketers specializing in foreign patients will be nurtured and medical tours in conjunction with insurance packages will be launched.

The ministry has also revised related laws to speed up the plan.

Article 27 of medical law prohibits domestic hospitals from attracting foreign patients. The ministry revised the provision to allow the treatment of foreigners. The revised law, now pending in parliament, is expected to pass when the Assembly is back to normal.

Certain civic healthcare organizations are opposed the revision, however, saying the change will prompt hospitals to only pursue profits, putting domestic patients on the back burner.

The ministry says the attraction of 100,000 overseas patients will create 6,000 new jobs and boost production worth 900 billion won (687 million U.S. dollars). Thailand, one of three Asian countries drawing the largest number of overseas patients, attracts 1.6 million foreign patients per year.

“Few foreigners know that Korea has more advanced medical technology than Thailand,” said one ministry official. “We will be committed to publicizing our advanced medical technology to the world this year.”