Health and Welfare Minister Cho Kyoo-hong and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) ambassadors to Korea met on Friday to discuss how to strengthen healthcare cooperation, the Korean government said.
The meeting, held at the Westin Josun Hotel in Jung-gu, Seoul, was also attended by Korea Health Industry Development Institute President Cha Soon-do, United Arab Emirates Ambassador H.E. Abdulla Saif Al Nuaimi, Omani Ambassador Zakariya Hamed Hilal Al Saadi, Saudi Arabia Ambassador Sami M. Alsadhan, Qatari Ambassador Khalid bin Ibrahim Al-Hamar, and Kuwaiti Ambassador Deyab Farhan Al-Rashidi.
According to the ministry, the meeting comes after the visit of the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud to Korea last November and President Yoon Suk Yeol’s state visit to the UAE in January.
Minister Cho and the ambassadors discussed ways to cooperate in the healthcare sector, including expanding Korean medical institutions into the Middle East and training programs for medical professionals in the Middle East.
They discussed ways to strengthen existing cooperation projects, such as revising the memorandum of understanding (MOU) on healthcare cooperation with each country, training medical personnel, expanding medical institutions overseas, and treating government-designated patients.
The health and welfare ministry urged the Middle East to pay more attention to globally competitive Korean healthcare services.
According to the ministry, there were 11 Korean medical institutions in the GCC in 2021 — including Seoul National University Hospital’s consignment operation of Sheikh Khalifa Specialty Hospital in the UAE. Nine out of 11 hospitals are located in the UAE and the remaining two are in Qatar.
Also, 1,407 patients from the GCC countries visited Korea for treatment in 2021.
While the figure is quite a large decrease compared to 7,263 in 2019, the year before the Covid-19 pandemic, Korean health officials expect the figure will gradually recover to pre-Covid-19 levels as the Covid-19 situation stabilizes.
“The GCC countries are important partners for Korea, and healthcare is one of the promising future industries to cooperate with the Middle East along with hydrogen and artificial intelligence (AI),” said Cho. “We hope that active exchanges and cooperation in the healthcare field will improve the health of the people of both countries and create mutual benefits.”
Ambassador of the UAE H.E. Abdulla Saif Al Nuaimi also said, “Today’s meeting was a great opportunity to see a blueprint for collaboration in healthcare between the Middle East and Korea.”
UAE looks forward to other meetings and working closely together on many future opportunities in the healthcare sector, he added.