South Korean hospitals are, by law, non-profit institutions and banned from seeking investment. That will change if an ordinance amendment goes through, allowing hospitals in the nation’s six free economic zones to become profit making and seek outside investment, according to Medical Tourism News on October 27. As non-profits, hospitals currently must comply with health authorities’ guidelines governing their operations as well as what they can charge.
The new ordinance will welcome hospitals to establish and manage their own medical facilities. It will also relax rules on foreign medical licenses, enabling hospitals in FEZ zones to hire a certain number of doctors with licenses acquired overseas and to hire more foreign doctors, dentists and nurses. Proponents claim that the amendment is critical to making local facilities more competitive, thereby boosting medical tourism and attracting outside investment.
Opponents claim it will set the stage for full-scale, nationwide establishment of for-profit hospitals. The Ministry of Knowledge Economy is expected to move ahead with the FEZ amendment by the end of the year. Construction of the 350-bed Incheon Songdo International Hospital in Incheon FEZ begins later this year by Cordish Development, an American company, with Johns Hopkins Hospital and Seoul National University as facility management partners.