Pass the Medical Hallyu legislation
In the 1950s and 1960s, young Korean medical workers learned advanced medical techniques in Minnesota. The program went through a great expansion, and now the Lee Jong-wook Fellowship and the Medical Korea Academy provide opportunities to teach medical techniques to medical workers around the world.
From 2009 to the first half of 2015, about 1 million foreign patients were treated in Korea, and until last year, 125 medical institutions entered into 19 countries, including the United States and China. Lately, a package of health technology, human resources, medical systems, pharmaceuticals and medical devices has been successfully exported to the Middle East.
Major countries like the United Kingdom, Japan and Taiwan promote the health and medical industry as the government’s key agenda. Japan is especially aggressive, designating the medical industry as a major growth engine in 2011 and establishing Medical Excellence Japan, a civilian-government support organization. Competition with the world is inevitable now.
The government has been trying to resolve problems through various policies. To export medical services, funds specializing in hospital overseas expansion were created and related budgets have been added, providing support from the early stage of the projects. Also, sustainability of medical Hallyu has been reinforced through the crackdown of illegal brokers recruiting with foreign patients and providing information.
However, unreasonable regulations still exist, such as a ban on medical advertisement in foreign languages in Korea. Also, systematic support in finance, taxation, information, training and education are not yet provided. The distortion of the market order by brokers, lack of post-treatment services and shortage of professional medical translation services pose obstacles.
For fundamental resolution of these problems, related laws pending in the National Assembly since last year need to be passed immediately. The bills on international medical project assistance, overseas advancement of medical services and support for inviting foreign patients need to be processed.
These bills contain necessary topics like limited permission on foreign language medical advertisements and a ban on dealing with unregistered brokers. To protect foreign patients, they should be required to have compensation and liability insurance. A thorough explanation of medical services before treatment would also be required. The laws hope to remove unnecessary obstacles and create a transparent market.
Legislation of related laws will be a turning point in becoming an international player while protecting the domestic medical system. Expansion into new markets will also exert positive impacts on health, tourism, aviation and construction technologies. The new laws will provide a springboard for the Korean medical industry to make a leap.
by Chung Chin-youb, Minister of Health and Welfare