Health Services Clustered Heavily in Seoul

Seven out of every 10 new medical clinics that opened in Korea over the last five years were clustered in the greater Seoul area. That meant 11.6 new clinics per 100,000 people opened in Seoul, but only one in North Gyeongsang Province.

According to the National Health Insurance Service on Sunday, 3,240 new clinics opened across the country from 2018 to 2022, but 1,095 were in Seoul, 1,012 in surrounding Gyeonggi Province and 196 in Incheon. In other words 71 percent were clustered in the greater Seoul area.

Outside Seoul some 220 clinics opened in the southern port city of Busan, 164 in Daegu, 88 in Gwangju, 81 in South Gyeongsang Province, 55 in Daejeon and North Chungcheong Province, 46 on Jeju Island, and 45 in the Sejong administrative city, but only 43 across the whole of North Jeolla Province, 36 in South Chungcheong Province, 32 in Gangwon Province, and 26 in South Jeolla and North Gyeongsang provinces.


The difference becomes starker in demographic terms. In Seoul, that meant 11.6 new clinics per 100,000, in Gyeonggi Province 7.4 and in Incheon 6.6. But only one new clinic opened per 100,000 people in North Gyeongsang Province, 1.4 in South Jeolla Province and 1.7 in South Chungcheong Province.

The number of doctors is also much smaller in the provinces. As of last year, there were 2.12 doctors per 1,000 people across the country, but they were concentrated in big cities. The figure stood at 3.35 in Seoul, 2.58 in Daegu, 2.57 in Gwangju, 2.56 in Daejeon and 2.48 in Busan.

But the number was just 2.05 in North Jeolla Province, 1.78 in Gangwon Province, 1.76 in Incheon, 1.74 on Jeju Island, 1.71 in South Jeolla and South Gyeongsang provinces, 1.69 in Gyeonggi Province, 1.6 in Ulsan, 1.54 in North Chungcheong Province, 1.46 in South Chungcheong Province and 1.36 in North Gyeongsang Province.

“Korea faces two urgent issues — the collapse of essential medial services and the lack of regional healthcare facilities,” a doctor said. “Despite the influx of new clinics and doctors in the Seoul metropolitan area, even major hospitals in Seoul are unable to fill their vacancies for specialists in essential medical fields for the first half of next year.”

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