Nepal has had a long-standing relationship with Korea since the two countries established diplomatic relations back in 1969.
In recent years, Korea has stepped up its aids -- financial, infrastructural and medical -- towards Nepal after enlisting the country as one of its priority countries for development cooperation. In 2014, the two nations signed a framework agreement to provide a legal basis for the Korean assistance to Nepal.
Regarding medical aids, Korea has been a close supporter of Nepal on both the public and private levels. Such help includes the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA)’s $4.5 million investment in establishing a medical insurance system in the Kailali District in Nepal.
Korea Biomedical Review met with Kiran Shakya, Nepal’s deputy chief of mission to Korea, to obtain more in-depth insight into the cooperation between the two countries.
|Kiran Shakya, Nepal’s deputy chief of mission to Korea, emphasizes the importance of cooperation between Nepal and Korea, during an interview with Korea Biomedical Review at the Nepalese Embassy in Seoul.|
Question: What views and impressions do the Nepalese people have of Korea’s health system?
Answer: Nepal and its people view Korea’s health system as one of the world’s best. The nation is globally renowned for its expertise in diagnostic, cancer, organ transplant and cosmetics. The country also manufactures world-class health equipment. Nepalese people also have a good impression of Korea’s health system as the nation is currently helping us establish a more advanced national health system. The volunteer work done by hospitals and private physicians has also helped advertise Korea’s superior health system among our people.
Q: How are the Nepalese people residing in Korea receiving medical treatment? What comments are they making regarding Korean hospitals?
A: About 35,000 Nepalese people are residing in Korea, with most of them staying under Korea’s employment permit system (EPS). The embassy has signed a memorandum of understanding with several hospitals in Korea, including the Kyunghee University Hospital at Kangdong, to take care of our nationals. Despite the embassy’s efforts to implement such agreements, there are still some problems that need to be addressed.
Most of our MOUs are with large hospitals in metropolitan areas. However, a lot of our nationals are doing physical labor in rural areas making it hard for them to visit such hospitals. Also, most workers only get weekends off, and as hospitals don’t provide a full-scale checkup on weekends, it is sometimes hard for them to receive the proper care they need. We have stepped up efforts to adequately advertise the hospitals that have signed an MOU while trying to sign additional agreements with regional hospitals to help fully the Nepalese people residing in Korea.
Another problem, of course, would be the language barrier. Only some of the hospitals provide an interpreter, which makes it hard for Nepalese people to explain their illnesses accurately.
The embassy would also like cooperate in psychological areas for our citizens in Korea. Recently, the suicide rate for Nepalese people in Korea has gone up due to reasons such as homesickness or other stress-related problems. I believe that the psychological illness is a blind spot that goes untreated for most foreigners residing in Korea as there are almost no counseling services available. As it is well known, mental well-being is as important as the physical well-being.
Q: What impression did you have during your visit to a Korean hospital? What was particularly impressive or disappointing?
A: I’ve been to Soon Chun Hyang University Hospital for my regular checkup and back pain. The hospitality I received was superb. Personally, I had no disappointments during my visit to the hospital. The staff provided detailed explanation both before and after the surgery. The doctor did not make any crude decisions and looked at my report thoroughly before making any conclusions. Also, the swiftness of how the doctors receive my reports such as X-ray scans was impressive. My results were already on the doctor's computer seconds after I finished my checkup.
Q: Korean medical institutions and healthcare NGOs are providing medical services and equipment every year in many parts of Nepal. Please explain some businesses or projects that are interacting with Korean medical institutions and healthcare industries?
A: I can’t name all the businesses or projects that are interacting with Korean medical institutions and healthcare industries as there are so many. However, I know that Korea’s medical community has a good relationship with the Nepalese government and its people. Each year, Korean doctors and medical institutions come to Nepal and help the less fortunate, while many institutions cooperate with local hospitals and provide long-term treatment for our people. Such help has not only helped those in need but has also given a positive impact on the diplomatic relationship between the two nations.
Q: What healthcare areas is the Nepal government currently focusing on? And how can Korea help in such areas?
A: Our country is currently focusing on providing essential medical care for all. To achieve this, we are in the process of establishing a universal health insurance system. Korea has helped us do just that in various regions of the country. We would appreciate much Korea’s continued support in the matter as the system is on the verge of going national.
We also need support from countries like Korea to enhance our systems in regional hospitals such as upgrading its infrastructures and providing additional training to health professionals.
Pharmaceutically, we are currently manufacturing 50 percent of our pharmaceuticals in-house while importing the rest from countries such as India. We are aware that Korean pharmaceutical companies are trying to expand globally. Nepal is a perfect place to establish a new base of operations. Nepal is strategically located between India and China, which has a combined population of 2.7 billion. We also have an open-border relationship with both countries and products manufactured in Nepal are exempted from any form of taxes when entering the two countries. On top of such beneficial aspects, Nepal has very cheap labor, infrastructure, and energy cost.
Q: Is there anything you would like to add or say to the Korean government or the healthcare industry in Korea?
A: I would like to thank the Korean government for its continued support to Nepal. We look forward enhancing our social health services with the help of Korea’s advanced technologies. On the private level, we would like to continue our good relationships with Korean hospitals and medical companies.
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