Healthcare in South Korea



Living in a new place entails major adjustments, including those involving health. One might get sick at an unexpected time, so awareness is the best safeguard for ensuring a healthy stay in South Korea. 

Improvement in the public health of the Republic of Korea is impressive. The change in life expectancy and infant mortality rates indicate the success of the measures taken in the healthcare sector. Today, South Korea boasts an excellent healthcare system that offers patients with a choice between modern Western and traditional Oriental treatments. The government in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Welfare standardises fees for all privately owned clinics and hospitals. Korean nationals and expats adhere to the same eligibility rules and coverage. Employers are obliged to provide coverage for employees that work for a minimum of 80 hours or more. 

The National Health Insurance Corporation (NHIC) 

South Korean’s public health system is funded by mandatory contributions to the National Health Insurance Corporation (NHIC) which covers 97% of the national population. Korean law states that foreigners registered at the Immigration Office can apply for a National Health Insurance Corporation (NHIC). The contribution rate for employees is 4.77%, deducted from the monthly wage and the employer pays half. Payment is retroactive from the date of employment, irrespective of the date of enrolment. Expats who are self-employed can also apply at the nearest NHIC office with a certificate of foreign registration and passport. Bear in mind that NHIC cardholders can be refused by private hospitals or clinics, but all government funded medical establishments are obliged to take any patient covered by NHIC. 

Doctors and Emergency Service 

Expats from the US or Europe may find doctors in South Korea to be a little more tight-lipped than usual about their diagnosis and plan for treatment. This could be due to the language barrier, but the trend is slowly changing as more and more expats from English-speaking countries are moving here, usually in Seoul. If one wants to discuss things with the doctor, the patient must try to be more probing but still polite. Despite the language barrier, expats in this country will still be relieved to know that South Korea has an abundance of doctors that range from General Practitioners, dentists, dermatologists, paediatrician to specialists in various fields of medicine. To find a doctor, expats can utilise the websites listed below: 

Expats can dial 119 (ambulance or fire brigade) for emergency situations. In addition, the Medical Referral Service (MRS) is an expat-run English-language service to provide medical assistance to foreign nationals. Expats can also call the 24-hour hotlines: 010-4769-8212 or 010-8750-8212. 


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Hospitals in South Korea 

International health insurance will be honoured in most hospitals and clinics, but expat workers are required to sign up to the National Health Insurance Coverage scheme that is co-paid by employers and employees. Usually, the employer pays the half of the premium and deducts a small portion of salaries. But this insurance does not fully cover medical costs, and upfront payments may have to be made. 

The quality of medical treatment offered by any clinic or hospital in South Korea is at par with international standards, but some expats may deal with language issues. However, many doctors speak English, especially those who trained in Western or European countries. The government is also finding ways to give the best medical care to expats by deploying more English-speaking nurses and other health workers. The best clinics and hospitals in South Korea are situated in major cities such as Seoul and below are some of them: 

81 Irwon-Ro Gangnam-gu. Seoul

Tel: +82-2-3410-0200 

28 Yeongeon-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul

Tel: +82 2-2072-2114 

25 Simgok-ro 100beon-gil, Simgok-dong, Seo-gu, Incheon

Tel: +82 1600-8291 

Songpa-gu, Pungnap 2(i)-dong, Seoul

       Tel: +82 1688-7575


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