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South Korea to invest 97.7 billion won in public health

Regional health care disparities pose ‘serious problem,’ government study shows

South Korea on Monday said it will invest an additional 97.7 billion won ($87 million) in public health, part of an effort to tackle the country’s regional health care disparities.

The investment plan includes a proposal to establish a state-run medical school dedicated to the training of medical professionals specializing in public health, among other policies.

The decision followed a government study released earlier this year, which showed the country’s amenable mortality rate -- defined as deaths from diseases that are potentially preventable given effective and timely health care -- is dramatically higher in its rural and fishing regions compared with Seoul.
A local pharmacy in Seoul. (Yonhap)
A local pharmacy in Seoul. (Yonhap)

According to the study, the amenable mortality rate in Yeongyang, a mountainous town in North Gyeongsang Province with a small population, was 107. 8 per 100,000 people -- 3.6 times higher than the corresponding figure for Seoul, which recorded 29.6 per 100,000.

The study also showed that the death rate from heart disease is significantly higher outside the nation’s capital. In Seoul, the death rate from heart-related illnesses was 28.3 per 100,000 people as of 2015, as compared with 45.3 per 100,000 in North Gyeongsang Province.

Pregnant women in rural and fishing regions have particularly limited access to health care, the study also showed.

While it took an average of 3.1 hours for Seoul-based pregnant women to travel from home to a medical facility, it took on average 42.4 hours for expectant mothers in South Jeolla Province to do the same, due to a very limited number of health care institutions in the region.

Also, among the seven state-run health care institutions that specialize in children’s health, three are currently located in Seoul.

Some of the newly proposed plans include increasing the number of state-run medical facilities that specialize in postpartum and neonatal care, especially in remote areas of the country.

The envisioned medical school for public health specialists is set to be established in 2022. Graduates will be required to serve for a number of years in the nation’s remote regions, the Health Ministry said. These include farming, fishing and mountainous towns and small islands. 

By Claire Lee(

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