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‘Korea needs to toughen crackdown on illegal brokers for medical tourism’

Nam Doo-hyun  Published 2018.10.17  15:28  Updated 2018.10.17 16:45

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The government should enhance the punishment of illegal brokers who bring in international patients to unregistered clinics or demand hefty fees, a lawmaker said.

Rep. Kim Myung-yeon of the opposition Liberty Korea Party said the Korea Health Industry Development Institute (KHIDI) was complacent about the quality of Korea’s medical services for foreign patients, at a parliamentary audit of the KHIDI on Tuesday.

Members of the National Assembly’s Health and Welfare Committee hold a parliamentary audit of the Korea Health Industry Development Institute on Tuesday.

Earlier, Lee Young-chan, president of the KHIDI, said foreign patients were mostly satisfied with Korean medical services. In reply, Kim said, “Lee must have read reviews that wrote only about good things.”

According to KHIDI’s data submitted to Kim, the police sent 31 illegal brokers of foreign patients to the prosecutors in 2015, and 25 of them were either found not guilty or sentenced to the suspension of the indictment. Among the six suspects who were found guilty, five were fined with 1 million won ($887), and the other, 20 million won.

“Illegal brokers have mushroomed, raking in undue commissions by encouraging excessive medical tests and treatments,” Kim said. “Considering that there was almost no difference in the number of arrests in the past several years, the government did not make much effort.”

He warned that a naïve response to illicit brokers might lead to foreign patients’ miserable experiences in Korean medical tourism. “The government must root out illegal brokers,” Kim added.

Under the “Act on Support for Overseas Expansion of Healthcare System and Attraction of International Patients,” a medical institution must obtain a certificate of registration to attract foreign patients. It cannot request excessive fees, either.

If an unregistered broker attracts foreign patients, he or she can face up to three years in prison or a 30 million won fine. Requesting an excessive fee can lead to a maximum of 1 billion won penalty.

Despite the law, the authorities did not carry out crackdown sternly, leading to lenient punishments, Kim said.

KHIDI President Lee said the National Police Agency was in charge of arrests and investigations on illicit brokers, and the institute’s role was to make arrangements for the police when receiving a complaint or a request for consultation.

“KHIDI is making efforts to receive reports,” he said.

hwz@docdocdoc.co.kr

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