Deputy Prime Minister Hyun Oh-seok speaks at a regular economic-related ministerial meeting on Friday.(Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Hyun Oh-seok said that small and medium-sized medical enterprises seeking sustainable growth should compete more in the overseas market.
In a meeting with economy-related ministers on Friday, the deputy prime minister said that Korean SMEs, including health care service companies, should make efforts to seek innovation and growth abroad instead of trying to remain stable and protected in a small domestic market.
“If they want to be a lion, they should go out to a bigger meadow,” Hyun said.
Doing so would not only increase SME competitiveness but also boost the country’s exports even amid external uncertainties stemming from monetary stimulus cuts in the U.S. and a slowdown in emerging economies.
The finance minister added that the government will support such efforts through policies and free trade pacts that can encourage SMEs to expand overseas.
Hyun and other policymakers approved a plan to support the Korean medical industry to make inroads into Central Asia and the Middle East.
They agreed to draft a bill to allow local medical institutions to establish foreign branches and the use of telemedicine between Korean doctors and foreign patients.
The plan to export Korea’s medical services and technology is part of the Park Geun-hye government’s creative economy growth strategy.
“The government will try its best to foster the health and medical industry as part of the country’s future growth engine,” Vice Health and Welfare Minister Lee Young-chan said.
Korea aims to export medical services and technologies worth 2.5 trillion won ($2.4 billion) by 2017, the Health Ministry said.
Asia’s fourth-largest economy exported such goods and services worth some 1 trillion won as of 2012 as some 100 SMEs and medical centers expanded abroad, attracted foreign patients to Korea and transferred technologies to their overseas counterparts.
The Health Ministry plans to boost medical exports by further encouraging major hospitals to establish medical checkup centers overseas and facilitate medical technology and service exchanges.
Some 100 medical staff from Saudi Arabia will take training courses starting next year to learn about Korean medical services.
Demand for Korean medical services has been growing in the Middle East, especially from Saudi Arabia, officials at the Health Ministry said.
A government task force will be launched this month to help related ministries and agencies efficiently work to achieve its envisioned plan and increase overseas networks.
The team will include public health, tourism and export promotion agencies such as the Korea-Trade Investment Promotion Agency.
State financial institutions will also join this initiative by setting up a 50 billion won fund. The fund will partly invest in Korean hospitals on overseas expansion, such as Korea Medical Holdings, a consortium consisting of five medical hospitals.
By Park Hyong-ki and Cho Chung-un