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Health and Medical Services
Due to Korea's success in economic development, the overall
health of Koreans has improved significantly over the
past three decades. In 1960, the life expectancy at birth
was 51 years for males and 54 for females. These figures
have increased to 72.1 for males and 79.5 for females
in 2000. The infant mortality rate has likewise declined
sharply, along with maternal mortality as well.
These improvements are all directly related to improvement
in diet as well as in available health and medical services.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) is responsible
for all aspects of health services, including the strategic
planning for the maintenance and promotion of national
health and social welfare. The annual budget of MOHW has
been growing in recent years. In 2003, it amounted to
8,351 trillion won (approximately US$6.7 billion).
Health care in the form of medical insurance and medical
assistance was first introduced in 1977. However, the
coverage rate was only 29.5 percent up until 1980. As
of Dec. 2003, 97.3 percent of the population had access
to health insurance, with the remaining 2.7 percent being
able to receive direct medical assistance.
The supply of hospitals and medical personnel has continuously
increased. The total number of hospitals and clinics in
the nation (including Oriental medicine hospitals and
clinics) was 11,188 in 1975, which increased to 45,772
in 2003. Meanwhile, the number of licensed doctors, that
totaled 16,800 in 1975, increased to 81,328 in 2003.
National statistics for 2000 showed that there was one
physician for every 556 persons, one dentist for every
2,609 and one pharmacist for every 929.
The National Pension System, when first introduced in
1988, covered employees at workplaces with 10 or more
workers. It was revised to cover workers in workplaces
with five or more employees in 1992 and was expanded to
cover those engaged in agriculture and the self-employed
in rural areas in 1995. Finally, it came to cover the
entire nation in 1999.
Obstetricians providing quality medical care.
quality medical care.
While the primary goal of the above systems is to provide
minimum guarantees to the economically active population
in the case of economic difficulties, there are also welfare
programs directed to those not economically active. These
public subsidy programs consist mainly of the following
two parts: subsidies for living expenses and medical assistance.
Due to increased living standards and the improvement
in health and medical services, the average age of Koreans
has increased rapidly, which means that the number of
elderly has increased significantly over the years. In
1960, the population aged 65 and over comprised 2.9 percent
of Korea’s total population. By the end of 2004, this
ratio had increased to 9.1 percent, and is expected to
rise to 14.4 percent by 2019.
Policies that have been implemented to improve the welfare
of the elderly include the following: the provision of
direct subsidies to the elderly living under the subsistence
level, the expanding of employment opportunities for older
people by developing suitable jobs and opening job placement
centers, the strengthening of health care systems for
the aged, and the opening of various types of public facilities
for the elderly.
With the strengthening of social security measures since
the late 1980s, awareness of the needs of the handicapped
has been increasing. In February 2003, the Ministry of
Health and Welfare developed a "The Second Five-Year
Welfare Development Plan for the Handicapped 2000-2005,"
which is to be implemented in cooperation with other executive
branches of the government, including the Ministry of
Education and Human Resources Development and the Ministry
of Labor etc.
opportunities by providing subsidies to employers for
installing necessary facilities.