Category: Healthcare System

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

Article from

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.


Article from :

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


Original article from:

Housing costs burden young women living alone(Koreaherald)

#single_household #housing_cost #Korea


Women in their 20s and 30s who make up single households in Seoul voluntarily decided to live alone, mostly because they sought freedom and convenient commutes. However, they often find themselves weighed down by housing expenses, data showed Tuesday.

According to a survey by the Seoul Foundation of Women and Family in June, 87.8 percent of respondents in the 20-39 age group said they chose independent lifestyles out of their own free will, while 65.1 percent cited the need to shorten commutes.

On the other hand, the older generation was more driven by factors such as separation with their spouses, either by death or divorce, living separately from their grown-up children and family discords.

Among the 500 respondents of the 40-59 age group, 55.6 percent said that they started to live alone due to family splits. The corresponding figure was much higher for those 60 and above, at 92.5 percent.

Meanwhile, 74.2 percent of those who make up single households in their 20s and 30s said they faced the financial burden of housing costs.

Already OECD lowest, South Korea’s birthrate getting worse(hankyoreh)

South Korea fertility rate and number of births. Data: Statistics Korea

Government’s many measures have had little effect on raising the low birthrate

The reason the South Korean government has been left resorting to public “appeals” to overcome the low birth rate crisis stems from the fact that the rate has remained stagnant despite various measures to raise it over the years. The total fertility rate for women of childbearing age (15 to 49) stood at 4.53 in 1970. It fell steeply through the 1970s and 1980s before hitting rock bottom at 1.08 in 2005. While it hasn’t fallen any further since then, it also has shown almost no rebound in the ten years since. Last year, the South Korean birth rate was just 1.24. In terms of numbers of newborns, the decline has also been dramatic: from one million in 1970 to 438,000 last year. As of 2014, South Korea registered the lowest birth rate among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries.

Number of births this year

Maintaining the current population would require a replacement birth rate of 2.1. Countries that fail to achieve this level are called “low-birth rate societies”; those with a rate below 1.3 are called “ultra-low birth rate societies.” South Korea was already considered a low-birth rate society by 1983, but it was not until 2005 that it began vigorously pursuing measures to raise the birth rate. Since then, administrations have come out with measures to combat the low birth rate every five years – but the young couples who would be having the children are feeling little effect from them.In addition to number of newborns, declines have been occurring for most major indicators for low birth rate. The number of marriages between Jan. and May 2016 was down by 9,000 from the same period the year before. Employment conditions have failed to improve for young people, with the youth unemployment rate rising year after year (10.3% as of June). The number of women aged 25 to 39 – considered the most likely to have children – fell from 6.25 million in 2005 to 5.26 million last year.In announcing its third framework plan in Dec. 2015, Seoul set a total fertility rate target of 1.5 by 2020. Initially, it had pledged measures to increase the number of newborns this year to 445,000. The plan was to increase births by around 8,000 per year to reach the target of a birth rate of 1.5. But experts warn that with little impact perceived from the current measures, the number of births could drop below what has been called the “Maginot line” of 400,000.

By Hwangbo Yon and Noh Hyun-woong, staff reportersPlease direct questions or comments to []

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2 workers die in renovation from a motel to hospital (Koreaherald)

Renovating motel to hospital seems common practice in S.Korea thesedays.

#worker’s_death #motel_to_hospital #Korea

Two workers died and four were injured when the roof of a three-story building collapsed Sunday during renovation work in Jinju, South Gyeongsang Province, Monday.

Three of the six workers were buried under the debris when the roof collapsed during work to transform the third floor from a motel to hospital offices.


Two of the buried workers died, but one was found alive after a 14-hour rescue effort.

The building’s structure was too weak use heavy machinery in the rescue operation, and the number of workers assigned to the rescue had to be limited to 20 at a time to avoid a secondary collapse.

Two of the workers were found to have been crushed to death by the debris.


A third was found to have survived, having stepped outside to smoke against a wall minutes before the sudden cave-in, avoiding the direct impact of the fallen roof.

The authorities suspect that the workers had unwittingly knocked down a wall that supported the roof, mistaking it for a non-supporting partition wall to separate motel rooms.

The mistake may have arisen partly because the building differed from typical Korean structures as it was built entirely of unreinforced brickwork, and blueprints of the original construction were missing, authorities said.


The authorities plan to question whether there were any legal breaches in the reconstruction work.

The first floor of the building is being used as a Chinese restaurant and the second floor is a hospital office area.

The renovation had been intended to expand the hospital’s premises.

By Lim Jeong-yeo (

Original article from :

Fiscal plan inadequate to cover welfare spending

#Welfare_spending #10.4%/GDP(2014) #S.Korea #fiscal_plan_for_welfare_needed

Finance Ministry officials have suggested the national budget will exceed 400 trillion won ($364 billion) for the first time next year, while reassuring the state debt will still be held below 40 percent of gross domestic product.

A senior ministry official said last week the 2017 budget would increase by more than 3.5 percent from this year’s 386.4 trillion won to hover slightly above the 400 trillion won mark.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added that, despite the planned increase in fiscal spending, it might be possible to keep the national debt to GDP ratio in the 39 percent range.

The figure, which remained at 34.3 percent in 2013 when President Park Geun-hye’s administration was installed, is projected to rise to 40.1 percent in 2016. Submitting an 11 trillion-won supplementary budget plan to the parliament last month, the Finance Ministry said the national debt to GDP ratio might be down to 39.3 percent.

Behind financial authorities’ confidence that an expansionary budget will not further undermine fiscal soundness is a continuous increase in tax revenues.

According to government data, national tax revenues rose by 19 trillion won from a year earlier to 125.6 trillion won in the first half of this year. The amount accounted for 56.3 percent of the annual revenue target of 222.9 trillion won.

Corporate, income and value-added taxes were collected more than expected due to improved profitability of companies, a boom in the real estate market and an increase in private consumption.

Finance Ministry officials say the increase in tax revenues enables them to minimize the issuance of state bonds and repay part of the existing government debt.

South Korea’s national debt as a percentage of GDP may not seem high compared with other members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The country’s national debt to GDP ratio of 37.9 percent in 2015 was far lower than 230 percent for Japan, 113.6 percent for US and 78.7 percent for Germany.

What is worrisome is that Korea has been seeing its national debt rise at the fastest pace among major economies in recent years and this trend is seen to accelerate in the coming decades.

In its long-term fiscal outlook released last year, the Finance Ministry warned that the debt ratio could surge above 90 percent by 2060 if new spending programs were put in place amid a slowdown in economic growth.

In a bid to secure fiscal soundness over the long term, the ministry last week disclosed a draft bill that would make it compulsory for the central government to keep debt below 45 percent of GDP and set the ceiling for the annual budget deficit at 3 percent of GDP.

Critics raise doubts about whether such fiscal targets will remain within reach down the road as the draft law leaves room for the government to go beyond the spending limit when the economic situation worsens.

This consideration may be necessary to prevent the economy already stuck in a low-growth rut from being dragged deeper into recession.

What is more worrying for experts is a lack of concrete measures to finance expanded welfare programs, which they note will make the government’s fiscal scheme unviable in the long run.

In a recent meeting with reporters, Vice Finance Minister Song Eon-seok dismissed concerns that welfare spending would be reduced to meet the fiscal requirements.

“The government will remain committed to adequate expenditure on welfare,” he said.

But he fell short of suggesting credible measures to fund an expanded set of benefit programs, the cost of which will increase rapidly due to an aging population and a low birthrate.

According to OECD data, Korea’s welfare spending to GDP ratio remained at 10.4 percent in 2014, less than half of the OECD average at 21.6 percent.

Experts note it may be too complacent for government policymakers to expect tax revenues to continuously increase to shore up their long-term fiscal scheme. Corporate profits may decline amid the prolonged economic slump and private consumption and real estate deals are likely to dampen as stimulus measures run out of stock.

Experts say serious consideration now needs to be given to raising taxes to meet rising welfare demand while keeping fiscal health.

“What is urgently needed is a way to ensure a stable and substantial increase in revenues rather than an adherence to fiscal rules,” said Oh Gun-ho, who leads a civic group devoted to building up a welfare society.

The administrations of President Park and her predecessor Lee Myung-bak have opposed increasing taxes, arguing the measure would hamper efforts to reinvigorate the economy. However, experts say that it is time to discuss overhauling the taxation system to increase revenues in a way the additional burden will be shared by big corporations, the rich and a larger proportion of wage earners.

By Kim Kyung-ho (