Korea’s Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) recently announced plans to deregulate a number of medical laws in hopes of boosting the country’s medical sector. The new bill, to be drafted by the end of 2005 and passed early in 2006, is intended to improve the quality of medical services in order to draw in more foreign investment. Some Asian countries, such as India and Singapore, are luring an increasing number of foreign patients through their state-of-the-art technology and high quality medical treatment. The Korean government also hopes to play a more significant role in Asia’s medical market by attracting an increasing number of overseas customers. To accomplish this, the government will implement a number of changes, including: (1) a simplified visa system to encourage more foreign patients to come to Korea for medical services, (2) permission for hospitals and clinics to run public advertisements, and (3) deregulation of hospital establishment laws.
Beginning in 2006, hospitals will be permitted to broadcast advertisements on television and the radio, which are both currently illegal in Korea. In addition, an unlimited number of newspaper advertisements will also be allowed, in contrast to the current limit of two advertisements per month. The deregulation of these laws will enable hospitals to publicize their surgery methods, promote new operation methods and techniques, and reveal their use of innovative medical equipment to attract more overseas business.
The financial basis and structure of hospitals will also be altered in Korea. In particular, hospitals will be permitted to become profit-making entities, encouraging more businesses to establish hospitals in Korea. Presently, only non-profit organizations and foundations are allowed to operate hospitals. Moreover, non-profit organizations that run hospitals will also have more financial power, as they will be able to raise outside funds through the issuing of bonds, and also be eligible for tax breaks. The MOHW hopes these new changes and the potential increase in hospital funds will attract more overseas patients and encourage more foreign medical companies to enter the Korean medical market.