Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare announced that groups of working-level representatives from the Ministry of Health UAE and Health Authority-Abu Dhabi visited South Korea from June 26 to 30 in order to strengthen ties in the healthcare sector after the MOU signing in March 2011.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare (MoHW), Korea is trying to put greater efforts into strengthening international cooperation in the global healthcare service industry as part of "Medical Korea" campaign. In particular, the Ministry is striving to build various channels to attract foreign patients when it comes to the field of global healthcare service. The Ministry believes that the following countries are the ones to be strategically targeted in order for South Korea to become the hub of medical tourism in Northeast Asia. They are: the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Uzbekistan, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Mongolia, Russia, and Vietnam.
The United Arab Emirates is a major client nation for the world's medical services industry as citizens of the UAE are reported to spend more than two billion dollar annually on getting medical services abroad, which is equivalent to approximately one hundred thousand dollars per patient (Gulf News, 14 July 2010).
Against this backdrop, the South Korean government, represented by the MoHW, signed an MOU with the Ministry of Health UAE, Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (HAAD) and Dubai Health Administration during the ministerial visit of Seoul's Health Minister to the Middle East in March.
According to some officials at the MoHW, they expect the MOU to provide a more specific and practical frame for bilateral cooperation in the healthcare sector. It was the first time for Seoul to have such an agreement signed that will help attract more foreign patients to South Korea, while assisting South Korean hospitals to make inroads into countries in the Middle East.
As part of the agreement reached in March, a group of working-level representatives from the Ministry of Health UAE and the HAAD visited South Korea to experience South Korean healthcare service (in hospitals and medical centers). They were scheduled to meet with their counterparts in the MoHW to have a talk in detail about ways to solidify the cooperation, including a subject on travel arrangements for patients going to South Korea as well as specific issues such as patients in need of BMT (Bone Marrow Transplantation), liver-kidney transplant and pediatric cardiac surgery. The group also had a tour of topnotch South Korean hospitals that have specialized facilities in treating patients suffering from critical illnesses or incurable diseases.
The group, led by Ali Obeid Ali, who is in charge of hospital licensing and administering outbound patients at the HAAD, was enthusiastic about learning of the excellence of South Korea's medical service from the perspective of South Korean hospitals' management capabilities and some of the national policies relating to health, including a licensing procedure for medical personnel and hospitals in South Korea.
The MoHW believes that this visit by healthcare officials from the Middle East will be a pivotal point to foster domestic healthcare industry, one of the nation's key strategic industries that encompasses the global market.