Free traditional medicine for migrant workers and their families
by Theresa Kim Hwa-young
The government decides to offer traditional Eastern medical treatment for free to illegal workers in Inchon and Ansan provinces. If successful, plan will be extended to other provinces.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – The South Korean government will provide free traditional Eastern medical services to migrant workers, the Ministry of Health and Welfare announced yesterday.

In a statement the ministry said that Ansan Oriental Medicine Hospital in Kyonggi province and Yoomin Oriental Medicine Hospital in Inchon will provide free medical services to migrant workers starting today until the end of the lunar year.

The two hospitals were chosen because they are located in areas where the number of illegal migrant workers is high. In 2006, 24,094 migrant workers lived in Ansan; another 25,802 migrant workers lived in Inchon.

The free medical services they will receive include general examinations, checkups and various kinds of treatments. Treatment during hospitalisation and prescribed medications are not included.

Although hospitals will ask visiting workers their identification cards before treatment, the latter can refuse to identify themselves if they do not wish to.

For Ko Tae-geun, a ministry official, this choice is based on the need not to harm workers who live in Korea even if there are illegal, whilst providing the opportunity to showcase traditional Korean medicine.

If patients react positively to the plan, the government will extend it to a number of other hospitals.