콘텐츠 바로가기
로그인
컨텐츠

Category Open

Development Overview

tutorial

Overview of Korea’s development experience

home

Development Overview
Official Aid Social Infrastructure

Print

Social Infrastructure

Establishment of the Korea medical center

1. Overview
 
The establishment of the Korea Medical Center (KMC) was one of the most prominent and representative of all Korea’s development projects, made possible due to aid received from three Scandinavian countries—Denmark, Norway and Sweden. In fact these three countries had provided emergency relief, including medical care, during the Korean War, and when the war ended it was their joint grant-in-aid, delivered to Korea via the United Nations Korean Reconstruction Agency (UNKRA), that funded the construction and operations of the KMC, a medical center of an unprecedented scale in Korea.


The KMC began construction in 1956, and opened its doors to the public in 1958. For the subsequent decade from its opening it was operated based on the financial contributions, medical expertise, management support, and technical resources of these donor countries, after which its management was handed over to the Korean government. But even after this management transfer, these three donors continued to provide pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, and overseas training opportunities for Korean medical staff over the next few decades. The Korean government, for its part, also continued to invest increasing amounts in the center, expanding and improving the range and quality of services it provided as a public general hospital.
                 
2. Background
 
Although the three Scandinavian countries did not dispatch any troops to the Korean War, they consistently provided emergency relief and medical aid throughout the war, as well as support for postwar rehabilitation and economic reconstruction. Having traditionally focused on humanitarian aid, these three countries are among the most active and supportive providers of development aid worldwide today.[1]


During the Korean War, Denmark, Norway and Sweden provided emergency medical and other forms of aid for war victims and refugees. Denmark deployed its hospital vessel, Futlandia, to Busan Port. Norway set up an itinerary surgery hospital in the Dongducheon area of Seoul. Sweden opened up a Red Cross hospital in Busan to provide a wide range of medical and health services.


International aid for Korea’s postwar rehabilitation and economic reconstruction originating from sources other than the United States was all delivered via the UNKRA. Thus the three Scandinavian countries co-organized a medical aid program with the UNKRA, and signed a five-party agreement on March 13, 1956, with the Korean government and the UNKRA on setting up a national and public medical center in Korea.[2] The agreement detailed the three Scandinavian countries’ intention to make humanitarian contributions to the hospital project effort in cooperation with the Korean government and the UNKRA.


The agreement also outlined funding for the plan: the UNKRA was to provide USD 2.4 million for the construction of the hospital; the Scandinavian countries, USD 2 million together to support staff, facilities, and equipment; and the Korean government, USD 930,000 (or 167 million hwan at the time) for the purchase of the hospital site and other related tasks. With an investment of USD 5.33 million in total, a general hospital of a national stature and scale came into being in 1958, and soon became an institution that not only provided care and services for patients, but also educated and trained medical practitioners.


The project involved support not only for the construction of the hospital, but also for operational aspects that included medical treatment processes and the education and training of medical staff. The three countries thus agreed to provide an additional USD 1.5 million each year together for five years after the hospital’s opening in support of these elements. The Korean government, in turn, agreed to bear current costs for the hospital’s operation, which included 173,000 hwan in its first year.


Despite the multiple parties and complex nature of aid involved, the project proceeded without any obstacles or interruptions. The construction process, which began in September 1956, successfully came to completion in less than two years, allowing the hospital to open on March 10, 1958. The KMC was the first modern hospital in Korea, equipped with a wide range of medical facilities and highly qualified personnel thanks to the wholehearted support of Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
Although the three Scandinavian countries had originally set out to assist in the operation of the KMC for the first five years only, at the end of this period they were requested by the Korean government to extend their support for another five years, until 1968, which they accepted. The continued support was carried out based on an addendum to the original agreement and signed by the governments of the three countries, the Korean government, and the UN delegation on June 19, 1964.[3]


The addendum required the Korean government to take over management of the hospital in October 1968, and detailed a comprehensive range of matters pertaining to hospital operation and preparations thereof. The addendum in this aspect provides a good example of project-type technical assistance.


Having agreed on the plan of transferring all authorities and responsibilities regarding the hospital’s operation to the Korean government in 1968, the three Scandinavian countries signed a memorandum of understanding to that effect with the Korean Vice-Minister of Health and Society in October 1967.[4] Accordingly, the Korean government took over control of the KMC in September 1968, after which the Korea-Scandinavia Foundation was established to promote continued medical and cultural exchange between Korea and the three countries. The foundation still remains active today, and keeps its headquarters in Seoul.

 
[1] These three Scandinavian countries spend the greatest proportion of their gross national income (GNI) on official development assistance (ODA) among the 22 member states of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD/DAC). In 2002, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden contributed USD 1.643 billion, USD 1,696 billion, and USD 1,991 billion to ODA, respectively, or 0.96 percent, 0.89 percent, and 0.83 percent of their respective GNIs.
[2] Agreement for the Establishment and Operation of a National Medical Center in Korea.
[3] Addendum containing additional articles to the Agreement for the Establishment and Operation of a National Medical Center in Korea and its Annex of March 13, 1956.
[4] Memorandum of Understanding between the Minister of Health and Social Affairs of the Republic of Korea and the Scandinavian Board of the National Medical Center in Korea Regarding Transfer to Korean Authorities of Scandinavian Responsibilities at the National Medical Center.


Source: Korea International Cooperation Agency. 2004. Study on Development Aid and Cooperation for South Korea: Size, Scope and Exemplary Effects. Seoul.