Korean medical institutions and pharmaceuticals have made inroads into the Middle East. Over 100 projects about public health and medicine estimated to be worth US$36.7 billion in total will be carried out in the countries on President Park’s Middle East tour lists.
Thanks to the President’s business-oriented trip this week, four Korean pharmaceutical companies signed MOUs with Saudi firm Sudair Pharmaceutical Co. to export products, including antibiotics and anticancer drugs, for the next five years. The Ministry of Health and Wellfare estimated deals worth about 200 billion won ($182.3 million). The firms are JW Holdings, Chong Kun Dang Holdings, Boryung Pharm, and BC World Pharm Co.
In particular, JW Holdings is the first Korean pharmaceutical company that achieved a contract to build an infusion solution plant in the Middle East. The construction is undergoing in the Korean pharmaceutical industry complex located in the Saudi capital city.
On the other hand, Korea’s Yonsei University Severance Hospital will be in charge of treatment at a medical center specializing in women’s cancers. The hospital, scheduled to open in 2016, is under construction by a Saudi health care firm, and will house about 150 patients. Also, Korea’s Green Cross Laboratories has signed an MOU to establish a clinical laboratory at the medical center. All these deals were signed during Park’s ongoing trip to the Middle East.
The deals seemed generated from the success of Seoul National University Hospital in the Middle East. Last August, SNUH signed a contract to manage a medical center in Abu Dhabi. It was the first Korean hospital ever to manage an Arabian medical center. Under contract, SNUH started to manage a budget of 1 trillion won ($987 million), which covers 65,000 square meters and has 248 beds of the Sheikh Khalifa Hospital for five years. According to the ministry's data, SNUH seems to have been successful in improving the image of Korean medical services. Cure rates of SNUH in Abu Dhabi went higher than those of any other developed country, especially in cancer treatment. The success of SNUH might have broadened other opportunities for Korean medical services.
South Korea has become one of the most popular medical tourism destinations for Middle Eastern countries, with its high-end services and cheap cost. About 120,000 people from the UAE and 200,000 from Saudi Arabia visit other countries annually to get medical treatment. “Although they make enormous money exporting oil globally, they depend highly on overseas medical services because of a lack of infrastructure and top-rated medical services there," the Minister of Health and Wellfare who is currently accompanying Park explained. “We hope health and medical businesses can generate a second Middle Eastern boom,” he added.
Years ago K-medical dramas like “Jewel in the Palace” and “Hur June” had familiarized Arabians with the Korean wave. Now Korean medical services are expected to make a real difference in the oil countries.