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Overview of Korea’s development experience

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Health

Basic health care infrastructure

Public health issues were relatively ignored between the early 1960s and the mid-1970, with investments in the sector being low, as Korea focused on economic growth under the first three Five-Year Plans. Some reforms, however, were introduced in public health care.

The Health Insurance Act was introduced in 1963 and a pilot project was launched. In August 1970, the revised Health Insurance Act introduced a compulsory national health insurance system to some segments of the population. The state-run medical insurance fund was to provide insurance coverage to civil servants, military personnel and workers overseas. Voluntary medical insurance cooperatives also were to be established for other types of workers. But the Act could not be implemented due to a lack of financial and medical resources. A mandatory health insurance system was finally introduced 1977 to cover companies with more than 500 employees.

Family planning projects were a key component of health care services in the 1960s as the government sought to curb high birth rates. This was complemented by efforts to promote health care programs aimed at women and children to reduce the high levels of infant mortality, which made parents want many children to compensate for the death of some and was a main cause for the high birth rates at the time.

There were also efforts to expand the infrastructure for the provision of basic and essential health care services despite scarce government resources. Programs were focused on dealing with the control of infectious diseases, tuberculosis, leprosy and parasites. This was achieved through regional health care networks that tried to reach villages that normally lacked adoctor and taught ways to achieve a healthier lifestyle. For urban populations, there was increased attention on a rise in chronic diseases, such as cancer and hypertension, caused by industrialization.

Source : SaKong, Il and Koh, Youngsun, 2010. The Korean Economy Six Decades of Growth and Development. Seoul: Korea Development Institute.

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