The Korea Herald


Korean doctors rake in sky-high pay amid shortages

By Lee Jaeeun

Published : July 30, 2023 - 14:35

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Korea has the second-lowest number of physicians among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, leading to some of the highest doctors' wages among surveyed member nations.

Doctors in Korea earn the most among 28 member countries that provided related data. Following Korea, the highest earners are in the Netherlands, Germany, Ireland and the UK. The US was among the countries for which data was not provided.

Measured by PPP, which takes into account local living costs, salaried specialists earned an average of $192,749 annually in 2020, According to the 2023 OECD Health Statistics report. That was 60 percent more than the OECD average. Korean GP salaries ranked sixth.

In the case of self-employed doctors, the annual income of self-employed doctors in Korea was $298,800 in PPP terms as of 2020. Among the seven countries for which data was provided, it was the second highest after Belgium, where the annual wage was $337,931 as of 2021. In ordinary dollar terms, the average income for self-employed specialists in Korea was $234,967.

The primary reason for Korean doctors earning more than their counterparts in other OECD nations appears to be the relative scarcity of medical professionals in the face of significant demand for health care services.

Korea, in 2021, recorded 2.6 active clinicians per 1,000 people, including practitioners of Korean traditional medicine, per 1,000 people. This figure surpasses only Mexico's 2.5 clinicians. When traditional medicine practitioners are excluded, Korea positions at the bottom among OECD nations. Leading the list were Austria, Norway, and Germany with respective counts of 5.4, 5.2 and 4.5 clinicians per 1,000 individuals.

The country also ranked low in the number of medical school graduates -- 7.3 per 100,000 people, which is the third-lowest after Israel and Japan, and nearly half the OCED average of 14 graduates for every 100,000 people.

In contrast, the demand for medical services remains high.

The annual average number of outpatient care consultations Korean nationals received was 15.7 in 2021, which was the highest among the OECD nations and 2.6 times greater than the OECD average of 5.9.