According to a September 4 report published by the Institute for International Trade (IIT) of the Korea International Trade Association (KITA), Korea and Japan are expected to vie with each other for the healthcare markets of emerging economies. But Korea appears to be in desperate need of systematic support by the government, since medical facilities in the country are small in size.
The report says that most of the Korean medical institutions abroad are small-scale professional clinics. Therefore, it is hard to find a success story for the export of a Korean-type healthcare system. For difficulties in Korean companies' overseas expansion, the medical industry cites an insufficient system for financing healthcare institutions, a lack of international-standard medical centers, and healthcare regulations.
The situation is different with Japan. In April 2013, Medical Excellence JAPAN (MEJ), established in 2011 to attract foreign patients, was reorganized as an institution supported by the government for the export of the healthcare industry. The support aims to help exports in a way that combines medical services, including medical diagnosis and treatment, medical personnel training, hospital management, health insurance, medical devices, medicines, and construction materials for hospitals. Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe is also trying hard to facilitate the entry of the Japanese medical industry into overseas healthcare markets as witnessed by his visits to Russia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) this year.
The report also said that Korea and Japan are targeting emerging economies in Asia and the Middle East, rather than advanced ones. Thus, it is predicted that there will be intense competition between the two countries.
IIT senior researcher Park Gi-im said, "To encourage the export, a number of things need to be done. First, healthcare-related industries should work together to create full-scale expansion into the emerging market through a public-private partnership. Second, the government ought to ease regulations on healthcare. Next, domestic and local training for medical staff, translators, and coordinators is necessary. Finally, industry-academic cooperation to strengthen medical competitiveness should be promoted."
Meanwhile, Korea's medical institutions have already entered the market in China, the US, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare is planning to invest funds worth 100 billion won (US$91.5 million) for domestic hospitals' expansion in other countries by 2017. The Ministry also intends to run a comprehensive information system and to reduce healthcare regulations.