Category: Healthcare System

PHM Korea statement on COVID-19 outbreak and responses in South Korea

March 19th, 2020


South Korea (hereafter Korea)’s COVID-19 outbreak and response are still ongoing, and assessment of it is rather hasty. But we share this conditional statement because we think it is our responsibility to share Korea’s experience with civil society around the world, which is experiencing COVID-19 outbreak one tempo later than ours. In particular, we hope that the main barriers to the government responses and the efforts of the Korean civil society to find and fill the blind spots out of reach of the government policies or existing systems will be a lesson for the civil society of each country in the responses of COVID-19.


  • Barrier One: Reactionary right-wing alliance makes the situation worse.

 One of the most difficult challenges the government is confronted is the political assaults by the reactionary right-wing alliances, including the opposition party, Korean Medical Association (KMA) and right-wing news media. Before the general election in April, the right-wings blame the government for almost everything. They unnecessarily politicized the problems, which hampered reasonable and timely decision making by the government. They deliberately stick to the term ‘Wuhan Pneumonia’ and still demand a total immigration ban against Chinese people, although many experts repeatedly pointed out that it was unnecessary and special immigration process has been working very well. The opposition party disturbed the formation of an ad-hoc parliamentary commission to plan the supplementary budget for dealing with the outbreak, insisting that the commission name should include the term ‘Wuhan Pneumonia’. Even the KMA denounced the national advisory committee of which members are delegates from eleven academic societies, claiming that several members of the committee are leftists and clandestine power figures dominate government policies. Such a claim was absurd, but the committee was dissolved for protecting individual scientists from political attacks.[1][2] The KMA strongly criticizes the rationing of face-mask by the government and recommends that every citizen has to wear disposable face-mask without re-use in spite of the serious shortage of supply. In this situation, people are confused and lose trust in the government. Then the government is more likely to make hasty decisions and adopt populist measures and has to pay more efforts to rebuke fake news and misleading demands.


  • Barrier Two: The private, market-oriented healthcare system is the main barrier to cope with the COVID-19 though the ‘public control’ over the private hospitals and diagnostic kits industry makes the system keep to work.

 The number of beds owned by public hospitals accounts for around 10% of the national total, which is the lowest one among the OECD member countries,[3] and the health care delivery system from primary care through to the tertiary-care hospitals is not well organized. So as the number of patients sharply increased, it became very difficult for the government to procure beds and allocate patients according to their severity, especially in Daegu where the entire healthcare system was overwhelmed by the acute surge of patients related to the religious event. So-called ‘Big 5’ hospitals located in the capital city Seoul including Seoul Samsung Hospital which was the hotbed for the MERS-CoV outbreak in 2015[4] are surprisingly invisible in this situation except for the Seoul National University Hospital, while they account for 35.5% of total National Health Insurance benefits reimbursed to the tertiary-care hospitals.[5] The CSOs cannot but repeat their aged but never achieved claim that the government should expand public hospitals.

Now, tentative partial ‘public control’ over the private hospitals works by utilizing a pre-existing informal public-private network, not sufficiently but in a more organized way over time. Public control works much better with regard to the diagnostic kits production and supply.[6] Without the support from the government (Ministry of Food and Drug Safety and The Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, KCDC) and the Korean Society for Laboratory Medicine, the industry would have never achieved the development and production of the diagnostic kits, and extensive screening tests with high quality would not be performed.[7] The acclaimed Korean test system is not the fruits of laissez-faire innovative capitalism and deregulation but an excellent example of tight coordination of public-private partnership and publicization of innovative technology. We should demand public benefit-sharing, including affordable prices and stable supplies and the public control over private sectors in dealing with public health emergencies instead of unleashed deregulation for innovation.


  • Barrier Three: Long-standing structural inequality/inequity paralyzes the control measures.

 Almost 80% of COVID-19 cases in Korea are linked to cluster infections,[8] and many of cluster cases reveal the structural inequity/inequality pervasive in Korea.

Among them, closed-ward hospitals for chronic psychiatric patients,[9] nursing homes for the elderly mostly in bedridden status, and living facilities for the severely disabled[10] became the hotbed for infection because of their poor living environments and underlying health conditions.

Dualized labor market which is caused by long-standing labor market liberalization makes effective prevention measures impotent; for example, the largest cluster infection in Seoul occurred in a call-center where workers cannot exercise ‘social distancing’ in a very crowded condition without proper ventilation system nor demand paid leaves in fear of layoff.[11] The more people stay at home for ‘social distancing’, the higher the work demands become in some sectors, such as call-centers and delivery services. One delivery worker died of Karoshi while dealing with skyrocketed online orders from the dawn to midnight.[12] As school closure extends, substitute teachers and caregivers in precarious employment have to work for children who cannot be cared at home, while regular teachers stay at home with paid leaves.[13] Pre-existing inequality and discrimination against low-waged, precarious workers aggravate the situation around the public health crisis.



  • Pros and Cons in the acclaimed ‘openness and transparency’ strategy of the Korean government.

 Korean Foreign Minister KANG Kyung-wha’s interview with the BBC on March 15th is gaining popularity. The strategy of the COVID-19 response by the Korean government, “openness, transparency and fully keeping the public informed,” appears to be paying off as Minister Kang said.[14]

There is a context in the government’s commitment to open and transparent responses. The secrecy strategy adopted by the right-wing government during the early phase of MERS-CoV outbreak in 2015 led to the failure of timely control and wide distrust in the government.[15] For the current liberal MOON Jae-in government, who was elected after the impeachment of the ex-president PARK Geun-hye, open and transparent responses to COVID-19 are becoming the barometers for legitimacy.

Current obsessive tracking/tracing of COVID-19 patients and information release/disclosure is possible thanks to the passage of the so-called ‘MERS act’ at the time of the MERS-CoV outbreak in 2015.[16] Recently, the government and the National Assembly also passed the so-called ‘COVID-19 acts,’ which allow involuntary testing, quarantine and treatment of those suspected of infection and the prosecution of those who refuse to test. This enabled the current aggressive massive screening tests.[17] While the ‘openness and transparency’ strategy is desirable in principle, there is a rising concern over privacy and human rights violation at the same time.[18] Indeed, many individuals were blamed and stigmatized as they ‘spread’ out viruses, and restaurants patients had visited had to shut down in order not to being blamed. After all, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea[19] announced the recommendation not to release specific addresses or workplace names of the COVID-19 patients, nor their travel path and the places they’ve visited to protect their privacy.[20] The KCDC had recently updated the guideline for local governments with incorporating such recommendations. However, CSOs have to follow up the situation and continue discussing how to protect population health in balance with individual human rights.


  • Role of civil societies.

Many NGOs and CSOs have been monitoring the situation the disadvantaged population, such as the disabled,[21] homeless,[22] and migrants[23] are faced with, and demanded government measures. Also, trade unions collected situation reports from their locals and investigated the sufferings of precarious workers who cannot access the paid leaves and proper protection from the COVID-19 infection.[24][25] On March 19th, NGOs and CSOs, including more than 40 organizations, national as well as local, announced a collective statement that the government should provide more support for vulnerable population, expand public hospitals, protect precarious workers regarding paid leaves and employment security, publicly control healthcare resources including face-masks, and organize community-based care system. Also the statement asserts that the media should stop their way of reporting obsessed with sensationalism and racism, stigmatizing special population groups.[26]

The government showed rather proper responsiveness; for example, undocumented immigrants can get the test without risk of deportation according to the decree of Ministry of Law,[27] and the Seoul Metropolitan Government began to provide ‘emergency care’ services for the disabled and the elderly who experienced the interruption of daily care services.[28] Although the government has shown unprecedented efforts and quick responses, the problems rooted in long-time under-investment in the social security system cannot be easily tackled. Many NGOs and voluntary community organizations are now trying to find and fill the blind spots in cooperation with local governments.

We hope this outbreak could facilitate social discussions for establishing a robust social protection system in Korea.


  • Participatory governance is needed dealing with pandemics.

 It is unrealistic to expect that all systems are perfectly in place in advance of an unprecedented public health crisis such as COVID-19 pandemic. There are many loopholes in the Korean government’s COVID-19 responses.

However, we could manage the situation better if we work together. Such loopholes could be filled through a ‘healthy’ partnership between the government and the civil society. The social power, including the CSOs, works to make the government actions more equitable and effective. The Korean civil society is closely monitoring the COVID-19 responses, as it did in the 2015 MERS-CoV outbreak,[29] with a focus on human rights and social justice.

We believe that ‘participatory governance’ would be effective for dealing with pandemic as well as defending democracy. We will keep working in solidarity.


pdf version of the statement:

[1] The Hankyoreh 21, March 13, 2020,

[2] The SisaIN, March 17, 2020,

[3] OECD Statistics

[4] Ki, 2015 MERS outbreak in Korea: hospital-to-hospital transmission, Epidemiol Health. 2015; 37: e2015033.

[5] The Young Doctors, May 27 2019,


[7] The SisaIN, February 14 2020,

[8] The Korea Herald, March 14 2020, 8 in 10 coronavirus cases in S. Korea linked to cluster infections

[9] The Washington Post, March 1 2020, How a South Korean psychiatric ward became a ‘medical disaster’ when coronavirus hit

[10] VOA, February 26 2020, Coronavirus Outbreak Inside 2 S. Korean Medical Facilities Highlights Vulnerability of Disabled Patients

[11] Yonhap News Agency, March 10 2020, Seoul call center emerges as city’s biggest infection cluster, numbers feared to rise

[12] Korea Joongang Daily, March 17 2020, Union blames Coupang for delivery worker’s death

[13] The Redian, March 17 2020,

[14] Ministry of Foreign Affairs, March 15 2020, Andrew Marr interviews Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha

[15] Minjeong Kang et al., 2018, From concerned citizens to activists: a case study of 2015 South Korean MERS outbreak and the role of dialogic government communication and citizens’ emotions on public activism, Journal of Public Relations Research, 30:5-6, 202-229, DOI: 10.1080/1062726X.2018.1536980

[16] The Korea Times, July 9 2015, Install epidemics system

[17] (Overseas Korea Centers), March 4 1010, Cabinet passes laws to fight COVID-19 outbreak

[18] Korean Federation Medical Activist Groups for Health Rights (KFHR), February 25 2020,

[19] National Human Rights Commission of Korea, March 9 2020,

[20] The Hankyoreh, Mar 16 2020, Government decides not to disclose personal information about novel coronavirus patients

[21] The Be Minor, March 18 2020,

[22] CSOs network, March 9 2020,

[23] Workers’ Solidarity, March 9 2020,

[24] Korean Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union (KPTU), February 28 2020, KPTU Healthcare Workers Solidarity Division Statement on COVID-19

[25] Korean Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union (KPTU), March 16 2020, COVID-19 and South Korean Workers, KCTU Demands

[26] CSOs network, March 19 2020,

[27] Yonhap News Agency, March 5 2020,

[28] Seoul Metropolitan Government, March 16 2020,

[29] People’s Health Institute (PHI), 2016,

South Korea COVID-19 Outbreak Archive (update Mar/17/2020)

PHI column series 1

——— community infection started in a city of Daegu ———


PHI column series 2

——— community infection started in a city of Daegu ———


Other columns or interviews by PHI


——— community infection started in a city of Daegu ———





[call for petition]Abortion should be decriminalized in South Korea, now!

PHM Korea supports the campaign of Joint Action for Reproductive Justice in South Korea which demands people’s action for the decriminalization of abortion and expansion of access to safe abortion in South Korea.

Please Join for the petition.

Petition for Safe Abortion in South Korea

#Reproductice_justice #safe_abortion #medical_abortion #South_Korea



In South Korea, abortion is the only medical procedure included in the Criminal Code (Article 269 and 270) since 1953. Abortion is only legal if the pregnancy causes the woman serious physical health issues, if the pregnancy is a result of an incest/rape, or if one of the parents has ‘eugenic’ disease. Also, this law requires the consent of (male) spouses even in these grounds. Women can be sentenced to a year in prison or ordered to pay fines of two million won (about $2,000) for having abortions. Doctors, midwives and any healthcare workers who provide abortions can face up to two years imprisonment.

Korean women and doctors for sexual, reproductive health and right(SRHR) have been fighting for decriminalizing of abortion since 2010. This year is a very critical moment to decriminalize abortion under the circumstances that the Constitutional Court is currently reviewing a case that challenges the abortion law’s constitutionality. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health and Welfare issued revised regulations toughening punishment for doctors who perform abortions. The ministry also labeled providing abortion services as an ‘immoral medical practice’.

Abortion has been a widespread experience for many Korean women. According to a government estimate, based on a survey of women of childbearing age, 169,000 abortions(16 abortions per 1,000 people) were conducted in 2010, the latest year for which data is available. While the government has neglected it, abortion practice was not adequately monitored nor officially educated.

Sign the petition to decriminalize abortion and to expand access to safe abortion in South Korea. We’ll collect our voices directly to the Constitutional Court, and push to draw the stalled verdict. By signing you will be a great support to women’s movement in South Korea and stunning wake-up call for our policymakers and judges.

[Our demands]
-Article 269, 270 of the Criminal Code is unconstitutional. Repeal the 269, 270!”
-Provide safe abortion!
-Officially register the abortion pills!
-Guarantee sexual rights and comprehensive sexual education!
-Guarantee safe and legal abortion for everyone!
-End stigma!

South Korea scores symbolic victories in negotiations over KORUS FTA(Hankyoreh)

What does US’s victory about pharmaceutical pricing system mean to Korean people and healthcare system?

Does idea of “free-trade” more important than efficient purchasing of single-payer system to assure medicine access to all?


“Another major victory for the US is the agreement to hold additional negotiations to revise South Korea’s pharmaceutical pricing system for innovative medicine from around the world. American pharmaceutical firms have repeatedly complained that the price of medicine is set too low by South Korea’s national health insurance.”


#KORUS-FTA #pharmaceutical_pricing #newdrug #medicine #Free_Trade


Original Article from:



US receives concessions on automobile import restrictions and prescription drug pricing

South Korean Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong takes a drink of water during a briefing to discuss the results of the KORUS FTA revision agreements at the Central Government Complex in Seoul on Mar. 26. (by Baek So-ah, staff photographer)

While presenting results of the negotiations to revise the South Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) at the Central Government Complex in Seoul on Mar. 26, South Korean Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong said that South Korean negotiators had protected the nation’s interests. “We participated in the negotiations more with the aim of defending the national interest than of protecting the KORUS FTA. We gave ground where appropriate while securing our interests [in the agreement],” Kim told reporters.


South Korea had found itself at a disadvantage in the negotiations because of the major divide between the two countries from the outset of the negotiations, which was compounded by American tariffs on steel. Despite these circumstances, Kim said, the negotiators managed to protect the South Korean market as best they could.


As Kim said, balancing the two sides’ interests was not an easy proposition in the negotiations, which were launched because of the US’s unilateral demand for and objective of “resolving the trade imbalance.” But a close look at the final tally of the negotiations also suggests that South Korea won the symbolic victories, while the US pocketed the practical benefits. South Korea received assurances about securing import quotas for steel and institutional and procedural improvements for investor-state dispute settlements (ISDS) and trade remedies. The US, on the other hand, received concessions that will have an immediate effect, such as easing import restrictions on automobiles and improving the pricing system for new drugs.


South Korea is the first country exporting steel to the US to secure a steel import quota (70%, or 2.68 million tons, of average yearly exports between 2015 and 2017). While accepting some of the US’s demands about American automobiles and pharmaceuticals, South Korea basically managed to arrange the first deal on steel. But a senior official from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said, “We initially wanted to secure a tariff-rate quota that would give us a steel quota and allow us to export the volume above that the quota to the American market with a tariff of 25%, but that didn’t work out.” The volume of steel exports will fall to 70% of the volume of previous years, and no more exports will be allowed after the quota has been reached. “This resolved the instability and the unpredictability faced by exporting companies,” Kim said when asked about the swift settlement of the steel issue.


One view is that the pros and cons of the steel import quota, which is limited to 70% of the average imports over the past three years, must be compared with the alternative scenario in which the tariffs take effect.“The South Korean steel industry preferred the quotas to the tariffs. If the countries exempted from the tariffs and the exempted categories increase in the future, President Trump is likely to raise the tariffs higher than 25% in order to achieve his import reduction goals. In that situation, we would have been forced to quickly get off the list of countries facing thethe tariffs. We can only export 70% of the previous volume, but if the price of steel in the US rises because of the imposition of tariffs, the value of South Korean steel makers’ exports might actually increase,” a spokesperson for the Ministry said.


The decision to relax environmental and safety standards for automobiles that the US has repeatedly described as non-tariff barriers to trade came as no surprise. South Korea agreed to increase the number of American automobiles that can be imported even if they do not satisfy South Korean safety standards (about the color of turn signals, for example) as long as they satisfy American standards from the current level of 25,000 vehicles per company to 50,000 vehicles.“While we increased the number to 50,000, the actual number of vehicles imported each year by the US’s three big automakers is below 10,000, so [50,000] has no effect on the actual import volume,” Kim said. But others argue that South Korea gave major concessions on automobiles in order to reach an agreement on steel. When calculating South Korea’s costs, it is also necessary to include the government’s and various industries’ sharp increase in imports of American products and their expansion of investment in the US, which were aimed at highlighting the FTA’s benefits.


20 year extension on tariffs for Korean pickup trucks


Furthermore, the timeframe for repealing the 25% tariff on Korean pickup trucks was extended by 20 years, from 10 years after the KORUS FTA took effect (that is, 2021) until 2041. “At the moment, basically no pickup trucks are being exported to the US,” Kim noted.But in Kim’s book Talking about the KORUS-FTA, when he played up the importance of ending the tariff on pickups. “We aren’t currently manufacturing pickup trucks, but we will be in the future. The important thing is that [the US’s] high tariff of 25% on pickup trucks must be lowered so that we can attract investment,” he wrote. In effect, the extension of the timeframe greatly reduces the likelihood of South Korean companies breaking into the growing US pickup truck market.


Another major victory for the US is the agreement to hold additional negotiations to revise South Korea’s pharmaceutical pricing system for innovative medicine from around the world. American pharmaceutical firms have repeatedly complained that the price of medicine is set too low by South Korea’s national health insurance.


Among South Korea’s gains, one of the more notable is the improvement of the system for settling investor-state disputes. The two sides agreed to include in the revised agreement a provision to prevent investors who have invested capital in the other country from filing frivolous disputes and to ensure that the two governments’ due sovereignty over policy is not infringed.


There will also be the addition of a section to ensure procedural transparency, such as releasing documents from local anti-dumping investigations, when either side initiates trade remedies (that is, import restrictions). This measure is designed to provide a way of dodging or blunting trade pressure from the US. But Kim said, “The results of the negotiations do not allow us to say categorically that the US trade risk has markedly decreased, and trade pressure is likely to continue for the rest of Trump’s time in office.”


The specifics of the revisions of the ISDS and trade remedy systems will be made public when the revised agreement is officially signed, following additional deliberations with the US.

By Cho Kye-wan, staff reporter

Widow sues National Pension Service, Suwon City over husband’s death (Hankyoreh)

#conditional_beneficiary’s_death #unrealistic_working_capacity_assessment #basic_livelihood_benefit #Korea


“It was the country that killed him.”

“A conditional beneficiary cannot receive part or any of livelihood benefits unless he or she fulfills certain conditions for rehabilitation, such as obtaining employment.”

“It is the first lawsuit holding the state accountable for the death of a social welfare beneficiary.”


Kwak Hye-sook, the widow of Choi In-ki, holds a photo of her deceased husband while speaking at the MINBYUN office in the Seocho neighborhood of Seoul on Aug. 30. (Ko Han-sol, staff reporter)

Choi In-ki had lost his government assistance despite having a serious heart condition, in real-life Korean version of “I, Daniel Blake”

Kwak Hye-sook held up a picture of her husband. Choi In-gi, who died three years ago at the age of 60, was shown lying in critical care with several different hoses attached to him. Kwak let out a deep sigh as her tears began to flow.

“I photographed everything. Is someone in this state a human? He wasn’t a human. It was the country that killed him.”

Choi In-ki was an express city bus driver. After an aortic aneurysm diagnosis in 2005, he underwent two major operations in 2008 to have the blood vessels around his heart replaced with artificial ones. An aortic aneurysm is a serious condition in which blood vessels could fatally swell and burst at any moment. Left unable to work, Choi was selected as a basic livelihood benefit recipient and received support for living and hospital expenses.


But in 2013, the National Pension Service (NPS), which conducts assessments on the ability to work, concluded that Choi was capable of working. That October, Bundang Seoul National University Hospital diagnosed him as corresponding to stages 3–4 in a four-stage assessment of working capabilities – but NPS re-rated him as a 1, indicating the most favorable state. The city of Suwon, where Choi lived, accepted the conclusion and declared him a “conditional beneficiary.”

A conditional beneficiary cannot receive part or any of livelihood benefits unless he or she fulfills certain conditions for rehabilitation, such as obtaining employment. In June 2014, Choi was finally forced to find work as part of the cleanup crew at an apartment complex. Three months later, he collapsed in an underground parking garage; two months after that, he passed away.

On Aug. 28, the third anniversary of Choi’s death, his widow Kwak joined the MINBYUN-Lawyers for a Democratic Society Public Interest Human Rights Legal Defense Center in filing suit against NPS and the city of Suwon.

Kwak Hye-sook (second from right) holds a press conference with MINBYUN representatives at a press conference in the group’s office on Aug. 30 to discuss her husband’s death. The case has drawn parallels to the film, “I, Daniel Blake.” (Ko Han-sol, staff reporter)

During an Aug. 30 press conference at MINBYUN’s office in Seoul’s Seocho neighborhood, the group referred to Choi’s death as “the result of unrealistic working capability assessments.” MINBYUN said it was the first lawsuit holding the state accountable for the death of a social welfare beneficiary.

Kwak and the group described Choi’s death as a Korean version of I, Daniel Blake, a film by director Ken Loach about a man who is forced to find work to meet conditions for benefit payment like Choi. In the film, the character dies while his case is being reheard by a public institution.


By Ko Han-sol, staff reporter

Original article from:

“Miracle Cancer Drug” Gleevec Sales Threatened Following Novartis Rebate Scandal (the Korea Bizwire)

Health Right Network Korea, asserted that MoH immediately suspend reimbursement of the drug, condemning Novartis’ continued illegal kickback to the doctors. Patent on Gleevec expired on 2013, and various generic form are available with much lower price. We, in solidarity with Health Right Network Korea, believe that strict and fir punitive measure for pharmaceutical company’s illegality is necessary, to secure people’s health right in Korea.

(Look at the Statement on

#Gleevec #Novartis #Rebate_Scandal #reimbursement_suspension #Health_Right_Network

Imposing the measure would discourage the prescription and use of Novartis drugs, and greatly reduce the company’s sales in South Korea. (image: Wikimedia)

Imposing the measure would discourage the prescription and use of Novartis drugs, and greatly reduce the company’s sales in South Korea. (image: Wikimedia)

SEOUL, April 10 (Korea Bizwire) – South Korea’s health authorities are considering a suspension of health insurance reimbursement for imatinib, a highly effective leukemia drug sold under the brand name of Gleevec (or Glivec), after its maker Novartis was found to have provided illegal kickbacks to doctors.

The Swiss multinational pharmaceutical company was investigated by prosecutors in February of last year for allegedly providing unlawful rebates to local doctors amounting to 2.59 billion won ($2.62 million). In August, six incumbent and former executives of the company were indicted.

South Korea operates on a two-strike policy for companies providing illicit rebates as a punitive measure. Under the terms of the policy, offending drug companies have insurance reimbursements suspended for their products for a year for first-time violation, and indefinitely if another violation occurs within five years.

Imposing the measure would discourage the prescription and use of Novartis drugs, and greatly reduce the company’s sales in South Korea. But at the same time, it could add a bigger burden to patients willing to continue with the medication, as it would have a high price tag, leaving health authorities in a dilemma.

(image: Novartis)

(image: Novartis)

In fact, representatives from the Korean Leukemia Association petitioned the Ministry of Health and Welfare recently, requesting that it impose a fine on the pharmaceutical company instead of a reimbursement suspension, reported Yonhap News Agency Sunday.

“If the allowances are suspended, patients (using Gleevec) will have to spend an additional 2 million won ($1,749) each month on their medication,” said Ahn Ghi Jong, the head of the KLA. “It is unfair for thousands of patients to suffer from the wrongdoings of Novartis.”

However, those with an opposing view demand that government should stick to its punitive measure, especially since there are other substitute drugs and generic imatinibs for leukemia.

“There are some 30 biosimilar imatinib generics in the market in addition to other new drugs for leukemia treatment. Making exceptions would leave the laws vulnerable to future debate,” said an industry official on condition of anonymity.

Health authorities are leaning towards the latter argument, but they’re still deliberating and gathering more feedback from outside experts. An official from the health ministry said, “The ground rule is to suspend reimbursement, but we are considering whether doing so would have a significant impact on patients.”

By Kevin Lee (


Original article from:

South Korea shows improved welfare, declining happiness [hankyoreh]

Country with unhappy, insecure people unsatisfied with their quality of life and social security?
Survey finds South Korean youth among the unhappiest in the world
+ A quarter of elderly people suffer from shame at being in care facilities
+ Survey finds that to be happy, South Koreans need to have work

#welfare_need_unsatisfied #declining_happiness #OECD #South_Korea


Change of welfare levels in South Korea. Data: OECD

OECD data put South Korea at or near the bottom in rankings measuring suicide and fertility rates

South Korea’s overall level of welfare improved slightly over the past five years – which included Park Geun-hye’s four years as president – but perceived happiness among South Koreans fell sharply, a research study shows.

The findings of a comparative study of welfare levels in OECD member countries published on Apr. 5 by the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs (KIHASA) showed South Korea‘s overall ranking rising two spots from 23 out of 34 countries in 2011 to 21 last year. But in the category of the population’s happiness, it slid from 30 to 33.

For its comparison of welfare levels in OECD countries, KIHASA devised indicators for the five areas of economic vitality, welfare demand, financial sustainability, meeting welfare needs, and people’s happiness. Between 2011 and 2016, South Korea’s scores rose from 0.750 to 0.834 for economic vitality, 0.781 to 0.786 for welfare demand, and 0.775 to 0.879 for financial sustainability. The score for meeting welfare needs remained constant at 0.407. The only one of the five indicators to fall was people‘s happiness, which tumbled from 0.348 to 0.133.

The people’s happiness level is a reflection of factors such as satisfaction with quality of life, transparency of the state, the suicide rate, the total fertility rate, leisure time, and anticipated lifespan from birth. It may be described as showing correspondence between the public’s basic desires and the government response to them.

Among the components of the people’s happiness level, South Korea’s quality of life satisfaction score was 5.8, tying it with Italy in 27. The state transparency level was 26, tying with the Czech Republic at 27. South Korea’s suicide rate of 28.7 per 100,000 people was the highest, while the total fertility rate of 1.21 ranked the lowest. South Korea‘s average of 14.7 hours of leisure time per day ranked it 25, while the anticipated lifespan from birth was 82.2 years, tying for 10 with Israel and Norway.

“While South Korea’s welfare level has risen in terms of its overall ranking, it is failing to keep up with the top-ranking countries in scores that take relative position into account,” KIHASA said. “In particular, there was a serious decline in the people’s happiness rating, which may be seen as a more suitable assessment indicator when defining welfare level through discussions.”

“Future welfare policy will need to focus on improving the individual indicators in the people’s happiness index to increase the public‘s perceptions that they are being served by welfare,” the institute said.

The top five countries examined in terms of overall ranking were all northern European countries: Norway, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Iceland. The bottom-ranking group ranking 30 to 34 included Estonia, Chile, Turkey, Greece, and Mexico.By


Park Ki-yong, staff reporter

Original Article from :

Experts say measures to prevent smoking can also boost the economy(hankyoreh)

#cigarette_regulation #health_inequality #tabacco_tax_for_healthier_society

“…policies designed to regulate tobacco would help redress the health inequality among low income earners.”

“while various South Korean anti-tobacco policies were having an effect, the most effective of these was increasing the price of tobacco.”

Posted on : Mar.28,2017 17:19 KSTModified on : Mar.28,2017 17:19 KST

At the end of last year, cigarette packs sold in South Korea started to feature imaging warning of the dangers of smoking

Symposium participants argue that increased regulation of tobacco benefits public health of smokers and non-smokers

Experts from South Korea and other countries argue that government intervention is needed in the tobacco industry because there is insufficient information about the risks of smoking and because secondhand smoke is harmful.

An international symposium designed to assess smoking prevention policies and to seek directions for development is scheduled to take place at the InterContinental Seoul COEX in Seoul on Mar. 28. Domestic and foreign experts in the areas of tobacco and smoking prevention held a press conference at the same location on Mar. 27 at which they argued that the government needs to regulate tobacco and that such regulation would promote economic development.

“There is inadequate information, since people don’t know much about the risks of smoking, and tobacco consumption has externalities that harm the health not only of smokers but also of others through secondhand smoke. Since this leads to a market failure and cannot be left to the discretion of the market, from an economic standpoint, government intervention is appropriate,” argued Frank Chaloupka, a professor of economics and health policy at the University of Illinois who was the first speaker at the press conference.

“Regulation of tobacco does not have a negative effect on the economy, but it in fact has a positive effect by reducing medical costs, improving productivity and promoting economic development,” Chaloupka added. He also argued that policies designed to regulate tobacco would help redress the health inequality among low income earners.

“Poor and vulnerable members of the population smoke more cigarettes, which worsens the health gap and health inequality. Regulation of tobacco also helps mitigate this,” Chaloupka said. His proposals for South Korea were to keep strengthening tobacco regulations by increasing the price of tobacco and to invest more of the proceeds of the tobacco tax into the areas of preventing smoking and promoting health.

One of the South Korean experts present was Cho Seong-il, chair of the Korean Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, who argued that while various South Korean anti-tobacco policies were having an effect, the most effective of these was increasing the price of tobacco.

“The biggest effect between 2015 and 2016 came from raising tobacco prices, and this accounted for 89% of the whole,” Cho said, referring to the policy’s effect on reducing the smoking rate. “As time goes by, the influence of raising tobacco prices will be seen in other policies.”

During the symposium on Mar. 28, Katia Campos, a technical officer at the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for the Western Pacific Region, will use a presentation to highlight the six globally proven methods for regulating tobacco: monitoring the use of tobacco, protecting nonsmokers from tobacco smoke, giving smokers assistance, offering warnings about the risk of smoking, banning tobacco advertising and raising taxes on tobacco.

By Kim Yang-joong, medical correspondent

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Cigarette sales drop for 3 straight months (Korea herald)

#tobacco_control_policy #pictorial_health_warnings 
Sales of cigarettes in South Korea fell for three straight months in February, following the government’s push to imprint health warning graphics on packages, government data showed Monday.

Some 240 million packs of cigarettes were sold last month, down 14 percent from a year earlier, according to the data compiled by the Ministry of Strategy and Finance.

The monthly sales have been on a decline since November last year, when 290 million packs were sold.

The ministry attributed the sales drop to a government-led anti-smoking campaign.


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Young South Koreans say they don’t want their children to inherit their kind of life(Hankyoreh)

Young South Koreans say they don’t want their children to inherit their kind of life

Young people gathered on Aug. 31 at the Future Office at Seoul Innovation Park, located in the Eunpyeong District of Seoul, to share their candid opinions about South Korea’s low birthrate with a group of South Korean lawmakers.

#downsizing_population #low_birthrate #Korea

At meeting to discuss low birthrate, young people argue that gov’t needs a careful look at why young people are not getting married or having children

“I don’t want my children to inherit the kind of life I’m leading right now.” –Kwon Ji-woong, chair of the steering committee of the Seoul Youth Policy NetworkAround a dozen young people gathered on Aug. 31 at the Future Office at Seoul Innovation Park, located in the Eunpyeong District of Seoul, to share their candid opinions about South Korea’s low birthrate with a group of South Korean lawmakers.

The lawmakers are members of a National Assembly research forum that aims to find ways for lawmakers to help South Korean society overcome its extremely low birthrate.Rep. Yang Seung-jo and Rep. Kim Jeong-woo, both lawmakers with the opposition Minjoo Party of Korea, and Yun So-ha, a lawmaker with the opposition Justice Party, organized the meeting to hear from young people – the people who are, or rather aren’t, having children – about how to fix the low birthrate.

“A low birthrate is a statement by the majority of the members of a society that they do not want to perpetuate their current way of life. It amounts to a society deciding to commit suicide,” said Kwon, who is 28, during the meeting.

“Rather than trying to figure out how to encourage people to have children, we need to start with the question of how we can make people consider their lives as being worth living.”

“For structural reasons, young people who are able to enjoy the normal lives enjoyed by our parents’ generation – of dating, marrying and having children – are becoming a minority. Government policy should also begin by acknowledging the reality that young people are joining the work force later and are disinclined to get married, rather than demanding young people to get a job as soon as they graduate and to get married once they reach a certain age,” Kwon suggested.

Lim Gyeong-ji, 28, chair of the Min Snail Union, says lack of housing for young people is a reason for the low birthrate.“Since young people have low incomes and have to pay rent, it’s not very likely that they will be able to save enough money to buy a house. Instead of always coming up with supply- and loan-focused housing policies that promote home ownership, we need policies that can provide a stable lifestyle even for people who remain tenants their whole life and never manage to buy a house,” Lim said.

“Not long ago, the new chairman of the Korea Student Aid Foundation said that debt is what motivates people to work hard. But the reality is that young people face so much pressure to pay back their debts that it’s hard for them to picture a normal future,” said Han Yeong-seop, 36, director of the Youth Money Habit Training Center.

Han argues that the fact that a significant number of young people are going into debt to cover the cost of university tuition, housing, and living expenses is the main reason that they are putting off or even giving up on marriage and children.

“I’m over 30, and I’m dating someone, but even I’m still not sure whether I should get married. Rather than going on about how the low birthrate is a problem, the government and politicians need to take a careful look at why young people are not getting married or having children,” Han said.

The three lawmakers who organized the meeting said they will listen carefully to the difficulties that are actually faced by young people in a low-birthrate society and will attempt to address those difficulties through government policy. They added that they believe that this meeting should be taken as an opportunity not to simply say that Koreans need to have more children but to look at the structural problems in South Korean society.

By Hwangbo Yon, staff reporter


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