10,000 Korean Doctors Protest Hospital Privatization

On Decmber 15th, a crowd of ten thousand Korean doctors filled a park in central Seoul to protest the government’s new plan for hospitals and pharmacies. One of the nation’s largest medical unions threatened to strike over the proposal to deregulate the medical sector, allowing hospitals to open for-profit businesses and the creation of franchise pharmacies. Protesters claimed the plan would corrupt the medical industry and destroy small pharmacies.

Comments were generally supportive of the protesters, and in particular criticized Naver for appearing to hide the story by manipulating its popularity ranking.

Article From Money Today:

Doctors and Pharmacists Fiercely Protest Government’s Push to Privatize Medical Industry, Prospect of Doctors’ Strike.

President of Korean Medical Association (KMA), Roh Hwan-kyu, gave a speech during a rally against the government's policy on December 15. During his address, he used a knife to cut his own neck to demonstrate the strength of his opposition.

President of Korean Medical Association (KMA), Roh Hwan-kyu, gave a speech during a rally against the government’s policy on December 15. During his address, he used a knife to cut his own neck to demonstrate the strength of his opposition.

On December 15, at 2:00 p.m.the roads around Yeouido Park in Seoul were teeming with 160 buses carrying doctors from regions across the nation. In the sub-zero wind chill temperature, about 20,000 doctors-police estimated 10,000-sat on the cold ground and chanted, “Stop introducing telemedicine,” “Scrap the separation of the prescribing and dispensing of drugs that creates trouble for the public.”

[Note: Korea started to enforce separation of prescription and dispensation of drugs in 1999 in a bid to prevent overuse of drugs. Under the system, doctors only give prescriptions to patients who in turn have them filled at pharmacies.

Roh Hwan-kyu, President of the Korean Medical Association (KMA) and its emergency task force, stood on a makeshift podium to give an address to the assembled crowd, calling for medical reforms, and even interrupted the middle of his speech when he used a knife to make a cut on his own neck in demonstration of his opposition. Similarly, directors of the KMA shaved their heads to display their firm resolve to oppose the government’s latest move.

The government dropped two regulatory requirements on December 13th to galvanize investment in the healthcare and medical industry; hospitals are now allowed to go into lodging, cosmetics and hot spring business for profit while pharmacists are permitted to set up large pharmacy franchises.

Instead of welcoming the apparent ‘carrot’ that the government offers, the healthcare and medical industry is united in protest, claiming that the latest move is a step toward the privatization of the industry.

The KMA asserted, “If the government continues to disregard the proper view from our 1.1 million doctors, and keeps its intrusive policy, the nation’s healthcare will be halted,” hinting at a possible strike by doctors in a display of their firm opposition. The Korean Pharmaceutical Association (KPA) also made clear its objection against the government’s decision, claiming, “The government is biased in its attempt to privatize the healthcare and medical industry without consulting medical professionals.”

The vehement opposition from the two major interests does not bode well for the future of the government’s plan to increase investment in the medical sector: permitting for-profit businesses within hospitals and allowing the creation of chain drug stores for pharmacists. The two policy proposals both pave the way for a battle over medical privatization between the government and the medical profession.

Opposition from KMA Doctors and Pharmacists

Neighborhood clinics and drug stores have voiced unexpectedly strong opposition, seeing the suggestion of for-profit business for hospitals as a step toward the privatization of the medical industry. The KMA official said, “It appears that the government is telling hospitals with financial troubles to move into other profitable ventures.” He added, “The influx of outside money into hospitals makes them put a bigger focus on making money than practicing medicine. Ultimately, medical service will decline in quality, taking a toll on patients.”

The plan to introduce telemedicine drew similar opposition: critics say the changes will only benefit large hospitals to the exclusion of small neighborhood clinics. The privatization of the medical industry would create the survival of the fittest, where capital-flush big hospitals would become winners and cash-strapped small clinics would be buried for good.

The same criticism was leveled at the proposed drug store franchises. The KPA claims, “Privatization would cause the concentration of capital and patients in big pharmacies, weakening the public good pharmacists offer for people. Big drug store franchises could threaten the survival of small neighborhood pharmacists.”

Government: “The medical sector needs greater development”

In the face of the vigorous opposition from the healthcare and medical industry, the government sees the new policies as a critical stepping stone toward privatization and as a way to make the industry competitive.

Under the current law, only doctors and non-profit organizations can set up medical institutions. In the government’s viewpoint, however, small independent clinics can’t compete with world-class hospitals on an equal footing.

The government forecasts that privatization will drive more companies into the medical service market and promote competition, eventually leading to higher quality medical services at lower prices.

In the United States and Britain, for-profit hospitals make up 10 percent of all hospitals, and 20 percent in France.

The government also pointed out that non-profit hospitals are restricted in attracting foreign patients and setting up medical firms overseas. As things stand, it is impossible for local hospitals to make an overseas investment or bring in foreign investment.

A representative from a large hospital stated, “Whether big or small, I think hospitals seek to make a profit. With that in mind, the opposition to the medical privatization makes no sense.” The official emphatically said, “To say that hospitals and clinics compete for the same type of patient is ridiculous. It’s about time that both of them develop the medical sector instead of balking at reform measures.”

In Seoul's Yeouido Park, doctors from across the nation rallied against the government's plan to permit  profit-making activity in hospitals and the establishment of drug store franchises.

In Seoul’s Yeouido Park, doctors from across the nation rallied against the government’s plan to permit profit-making activity in hospitals and the establishment of drug store franchises.

Comments from Daum:


I think President Park put the nation on path to collapse.


Privatization for who? We should not allow only rich people to receive medical services which would soar in prices, a sorrowful and tragic situation.


Those who would bear the brunt of the damage from privatized medical services are the members of the poor working class who support the ruling Saenuri Party, including old men living from hand to mouth picking up cardboard boxes on the streets. They should be opposed to the governmental policy.


I’m an Korean-American living in the America. The healthcare insurance bill for my three family members is ₩1.3 million. My employer covers the medical insurance only for me. Adding two members to my insurance policy costs me ₩800,000 won. That explains why people here say we have to work to get insured. When taken to the ER, you can be saved but without insurance policy, you become bankrupt. I am so sorry for the development in Korea.


I want to ask whether there is any country where medical privatization brings about good results.


When President Park gave a speech in French as part of her European tour, her address drew a thunderous round of applause. But it turned out that the clapping was not for her eloquent speech, but for her remarks that South Korea would lift the restriction on access to public sectors, including railway and medical services. That’s why Ms. Park was welcomed in France. But our garbage news media frantically tried to praise her speech.


Before long, Samsung will acquire all hospitals across the nation.

Comments from Naver:


Naver, what a son of bitch! You are trying to hide this article from the public. Portal news services are bastards. Don’t tamper with the real-time rankings of news articles. Post this right away!


Now we know the railway services are not the big issue. The government’s policy on railway services is a smokescreen. The government already shoved the bill through the parliament. Are they just a bunch of thugs?


[…] The Constitution states that all powers comes from people, doesn’t it? Why does the government push ahead with this policy without hearing from the people?. President Park has suddenly taken us by surprise. Like father, like daughter.


One of the best things late former President Roh Moo-hyun did was the massive cut in healthcare insurance bills for people.[…]


There was no mention of medical service privatization on the morning news…


Now is 7 o’clock in the moring. crazy Naver! in the wee hours, when people were asleep this article tops the list of most-searched news article on the real-time basis, but a while ago an article about Nam young-joo on a K-pop Star took the No. 1 spot on the list, now an article about One Day and Two Nights is at the top. Are you really trying to manipulate the ranking?[…]


The father of President Park killed people with guns, now his daughter is going to kill people with the privatization plan. Don’t do it.


She said (during her presidential election campaign) she was a ‘prepared president’. How much did you preprare… If she rolls out all her plans, the nation would be blown to pieces.

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