SEOUL -- South Korea's first for-profit hospital built by a Chinese investor on the southern resort island of Jeju lost its license due to a legal dispute over how to run it and a negative public perception, four months after hospital operators received conditional approval to start their business only for foreigners.
The investor-owned hospital dates back to November 2005 when South Korea promulgated a special law to allow the construction of a health town in Seogwipo in the southern part of Jeju Island. China's Greenland Group built a hospital in 2017 at the expense of 77.8 billion won ($68.4 million) and won the green light on December 5 last year.
The opening of Greenland International Hospital with 47 beds has been delayed because it was put under striction supervision with clinics limited to four departments -- plastic surgery, dermatology, internal medicine, and family medicine -- and only cater to foreign medical tourists without competing with other hospitals in Jeju.
The hospital was ordered to open by March 4, but its operator filed a legal suit to revise operating conditions, asking for an extension of the opening deadline. The Jeju provincial government could not wait any longer and decided to revoke the hospital's license.
"Not only did it not open, but also there was no real effort to open, even after the three-month deadline set by the medical law was passed without due cause," Jeju Governor Won Hee-ryong told reporters on Wednesday. He did not give up hope, saying his office would leave open a channel of dialogue on normalizing the hospital's operation.
While South Korean hospitals are non-profit., for-profit hospitals can generate profit for investors and remit earnings. Initially, the governor had favored the opening of Greenland International Hospital, saying it would not affect South Korea's public medical service system. His office has cited various reasons such as the revitalization of tourism, the protection of foreign capital, a national image and a lawsuit.
Jeju used to be a place favored by Chinese property investors and tourists. The island has drawn a large influx of Chinese money, helped by a 2010 visa program that grants permanent residency to investors who purchase property worth $50,000 or more.
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