Expats Health Insurance in South Korea
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South Korea International Health Insurance Information
The Republic of Korea, more commonly known as South Korea, is situated on the southern tip of the Korean peninsula. It is a well developed nation with a high standard of living. South Korea has an estimated population of 50 million people and has a total land area of 99,392 square kilometers. The capital city, Seoul, is located in the northwest of the country and it has a population of 9.8 million people. South Korea shares its only land border with North Korea, China is located to the west across the Yellow Sea and Japan to the east across the Sea of Japan.
The Korean peninsula had a long history of fighting invading forces and it survived numerous attacks by the Chinese, Mongolians and Japanese until in 1910 when Japan successfully occupied the country. The Japanese occupation remained until the end of World War II, and as the Japanese departed, the peninsula was divided between the Russian and American troops which were stationed in the northern and southern parts of the country respectively. New governments were formed in the two areas, both of which laid claim to the whole country. When the United Nations approved the South Korean government as the legitimate government of Korea, the North invaded and a three year war began.
The Korean War took place from 1950 to 1953 and developed into the first real conflict of the Cold War. North Korean troops were supported by both the Soviet Union and China, while American troops fought with South Korea. Heavy losses were inflicted on both sides and millions of Korean citizens were killed. An armistice was signed which brought about an end to the war, however, a peace treaty was never agreed and the two sides have remained technically at war ever since. Both countries are divided by the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMK) which runs along the original armistice line.
Following the end of the war, South Korea was governed by military rule. Decades of political instability resulted in numerous assassinations and military coups. Military rule ended in 1987, however, when the oppressed opposition parties rallied enough public support to call for democratic Presidential elections, which were won by Roh Tae-woo and his Democratic Justice Party.
Despite prolonged political uncertainty, South Korea’s economy enjoyed sustained development and growth since 1953. Such was the pace of growth and development, South Korea’s economy grew from virtually nothing to become the 15th largest in the world, and it is a long time member of the G20, the group of the world’s 20 largest economies.
Even though it is small in size and has a relatively low population, South Korea is among the top 10 exporting countries in the world. It also figures in the top 10 of importing countries, hence underscoring the economy’s reliance on international trade. The main sectors for export are electronics, shipbuilding, automobiles and armaments. Future growth of the economy is largely expected to hinge on its various high-tech industries.
As one of Asia’s leading countries, South Korea has a high quality healthcare sector. There are ample public and private health facilities located throughout the country, and a wide range of services and treatments are available. There is a national medical insurance scheme through which all Korean nationals receive healthcare. Expatriates are also required to join the scheme, regardless of whether or not their company is Korean owned. Foreign visitors and expatriates are also entitled to hold private medical insurance plans, and this is crucial for tourists as they are exempt from the national medical insurance scheme and are required to personally meet any medical costs.
It is important for all visitors and expatriates to consider the cost implications of medical treatment in South Korea. While treatment standards are high, so too are costs. Possessing an international medical insurance plan can help you protect from expensive medical fees and charges. Contact us today for more information, or for a free South Korea health insurance quote.
South Korea has one of the most modern and developed healthcare sectors in Asia. It has numerous medical facilities, both public and private, that provide first class levels of care and treatment. Medical staff are all highly trained and experienced, and the treatment and services available throughout the country are close to international standard. Foreign visitors and expatriates have unrestricted access to health facilities when treatment is necessary, and expatriates are required to join the national health insurance scheme shortly after their arrival in the country.
Healthcare in South Korea is dominated by the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP). All Korean citizens are required by law to join the scheme, and it ensures heavily subsidized healthcare treatment is available for members at public health facilities. Members of the scheme contribute through a social insurance tax reflective of their annual salary. Coverage also then extends automatically to other family members and dependents.
Foreign workers and expatriates are also legally required to join the scheme. On arrival in South Korea, expats must first apply for the Alien Registration Card before being eligible to apply for their NHIP card. The payment structure is slightly different for expats, as the employer will pay 50 percent of the health insurance tax and the expat the other 50 percent. When a foreign national requires treatment at a dentist or health facility, they are still required to pay a small consultation fee. One important point to note is that it can take a number of months to receive the Alien Registration Card, and during this time an expat is not covered by the scheme. It is therefore wise to consider purchasing a South Korea health insurance plan to ensure you are fully protected from the time you arrive.
Most medical facilities, particularly those in Seoul, will have an English-speaking doctor available to assist foreign nationals. Junior medical staff and nurses may not be able to speak English. If you require medical treatment, it is advisable to bring a Korean friend or colleague with you to ensure you receive the appropriate medical treatment. In addition, there are a growing number of international clinics that now cater to foreign expatriates. Staff at these clinics can all speak English although it should be noted that medical costs are much higher. Overall, hospitals and clinics are generally equipped with all the latest technology and hardware, and a majority of medical services are possible. One issue that might arise, however, is that of sanitation. Some hospitals do not practice good sanitation and may be quite dirty.
Similar to the international clinics but on a larger scale are South Korea’s network of private medical facilities. Private hospitals and clinics operate throughout the whole country, however, the majority of facilities are located in Seoul and Busan. There is little difference between the medical services and standard of treatment on offer from private and public facilities, although there are some notable exceptions. The first main difference is cost. Treatment at private facilities is not covered by the NHIP scheme and costs are therefore quite high. The other difference is clientele. Given the additional expenses, private facilities are most popular with expatriates and wealthy Korean nationals. This ensures that waiting times for specialist procedures are short. Korean citizens will typically only use private clinics or hospitals for treatment that is not covered by the NHIP scheme, such as treatment for chronic illnesses or diseases.
Despite the many positives of the South Korean healthcare system, there are a number of issues going forward that will impact on the country’s ability to continue to provide first class healthcare. South Korea has an aging population, with less people working to contribute to pensions and other public expenses such as healthcare. A higher percentage of older people also directly impacts on the provision of healthcare, placing strain and more burden on facilities and staff. Changes in wealth, living standards and social habits are all contributing to increases in chronic disease in South Korea. An estimated 25 percent of the population now suffer from a chronic illness, and the main contributor to this problem is the high percentage of the population that smoke. Tobacco related illnesses are by far the main cause of premature deaths in Korea.
Expatriates and visitors should be aware of the health risks associated with living in or visiting South Korea. As the country becomes more urbanized, pollution and sanitation have become an important issue. In addition to the air pollution that naturally develops across the country, South Korea is also affected by a seasonal “Yellow Dust” which consists of dust and sand particles blown over the peninsula from China. First time visitors to South Korea and East Asia in general may need to update or receive vaccinations prior to travel. While there are no major contagious illnesses or diseases to be aware of, incidents of Hepatitis A and Japanese encephalitis do occur from time to time. Hepatitis A is spread through food and water, while Japanese encephalitis is spread through the bite of a mosquito. Precautions against both of these diseases should be taken, particularly during the warm and humid summer months.
South Korea Health Insurance
All foreign nationals planning a visit to South Korea are advised to possess an international South Korea health insurance plan that will cover the duration of their trip. Comprehensive medical insurance coverage is important as it will help protect you in the event of an accident or medical emergency. For additional information on the full range of global health insurance plans available to you, or for a free personalized South Korean health insurance quote, please contact our professional advisers today. Globalsurance will be happy to help you with any of your health insurance needs, we guarantee that we’ll find the best insurance plan for your individuals needs.
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Questions and Answers from Visitors
Hi. Do you have any health insurance plans for visitors to Korea? I'm Canadian, and have been living in Korea for 10 years, but may have to change to a tourist visa which means I will no longer be eligible for national health insurance. And as a nonresident of Canada, I'm not eligible for Canadian health insurance.
When I travel to Canada on vacation, I buy a 'visitor to Canada' travel insurance policy through a Canadian insurance agent. Is there something similar like that here, for a visitor to Korea?Reply
As an international health insurance broker, we work with a wide range of insurance companies which can find a plan to suit any requirements or budget.
The insurance plans are all from private, international companies, which means your visa status in Korea or anywhere else is not relevant in order to obtain insurance. Insurance available is only dependant on the country where you live or spend the majority of your time in.
The options vary from a short term travel insurance plan, if you were only planning to stay in Korea for a few more months, or we also have long term annual insurance plans available if you were going to stay on a more permanent basis (which is renewable each year).
One of our advisors will contact you directly to find out more about your needs and then be able to send you a comparative quote based on it.