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Korea to allow foreign hospitals in free zones

The government will revise health and welfare regulations to enable foreign hospitals to set up operations in free economic zones, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said Wednesday.

The ministry said that concerned ministries including the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Ministry of Strategy and Finance have agreed to make the changes in response to the Incheon Free Economic Zone Authority’s requests.

With the ministries reaching an agreement on the issue, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy plans to begin preparations for the enactment of the revised regulations this week. However, the ministry said that the schedule will be finalized after the National Assembly approves the revised Special Act on Designation and Management of Free Economic Zones and the bill for introducing a special act on foreign medical services providers is currently moored at the parliament.

According to the IFEZ, negotiations to have a foreign hospital establish operations in the Songdo area of the special economic zone have fallen apart twice due to delays in revising related laws. With negotiations with a third hospital set to end at the end of the year, the process could be stalled for the third time if revisions are not quickly made, the IFEZ said.

The nation has pushed for the introduction of high-end international hospitals in the free economic zones since 2003.

In 2009, Incheon signed a trilateral memorandum of understanding with Seoul National University and the United States’ Johns Hopkins Medicine International to build a world-class hospital and life medical research center in Songdo. But the project stalled as the nation stopped short of approving related bills and regulations.

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)
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