Boston, MA -- (ReleaseWire) -- 04/07/2014 -- South Korea ranks as one of the world's leading economies, with a population approaching 50 million and overall GDP listed among the top 15 in the world at an estimated US$1,212 billion in 2013, equal to US$24,843 per capita,. As a result, much of the population expects a high level of medical care.
The economy is expected to grow at a real rate of 3.0% in 2013, having grown by an estimated 1.9% in 2012. Growth over the following five years is forecast to average 4.6%. South Korea's future economic growth is likely to be tempered by a shrinking workforce due to the rapidly ageing population and by increasing competition from China as a low-cost manufacturing base.
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South Korea has the highest healthcare expenditure of all the 'Asian Tigers', with an estimated 59% funded by the public sector. Almost every citizen is covered by the country's public health insurance system. The government has been forced to implement cost-cutting measures in recent years, owing to a large deficit faced by the healthcare system. Healthcare costs continue to rise, with the country's rapidly aging population adding upward pressure to total spending.
South Korea is well provided for in terms of hospital facilities which are primarily operated by the private sector. There has been a rapid expansion in the number of beds over the past decade and overall provision in hospitals and medical clinics now exceeds 9.0 beds per thousand population, including 5.2 acute hospital beds per thousand population. In recent years, attention has turned to the provision of long term care beds for the elderly and chronically sick to free up space in general hospitals.
From a regulatory and legal point of view, the market is generally regarded as 'difficult'. Government policies are often not transparent, and there is a large degree of favouritism towards local manufacturers. It remains to be seen, but the situation should improve as a result of the Free Trade Agreements signed with the European Union and the USA, which call for more transparency especially in the pricing & reimbursement of medical devices.
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