Travel Guide

Health Insurance and Health Care for Foreigners in South Korea

February 22, 2024

South Korea is renowned for its high-quality health care system, offering both modern facilities and comprehensive services. For foreigners living in, working, or visiting Korea, understanding the available health insurance options is crucial to accessing these services without facing high out-of-pocket costs.

I. How Does Health Insurance Work in South Korea?

The cornerstone of health care in Korea is the National Health Insurance Service (NHIS), which provides extensive coverage to residents, including foreigners. Enrollment in NHIS grants access to a wide range of medical services at affordable rates, covering everything from general doctor visits to complex procedures.

II. Health Insurance for Foreigners (Non-Koreans)

South Korea extends its renowned health care services to foreigners residing in the country, offering them the same quality of care as Korean citizens through the National Health Insurance Service (NHIS). Here’s a detailed look at the enrollment process, benefits, and eligibility for NHIS, as well as additional coverage under the Four Major Social Insurances system for foreign workers.

Eligibility for Korea's National Health Insurance Service (NHIS)

  • All foreign residents who have resided in Korea for more than six months.
  • Foreign workers, regardless of their employment duration, as part of the employment contract.

How to Sign-Up

To gain access to Korea's health services through NHIS, foreign residents must:

  • Stay in Korea for more than six months.
  • Visit the local NHIS office with necessary documentation.
  • Submit the Enrollment Form along with the following documents:
  • Alien Registration Card
  • Proof of Residence
  • Employment Contract

NHIS Benefits and Coverage

Once enrolled, foreigners enjoy benefits similar to Korean nationals, which include:

  • Access to a wide range of medical services at reduced rates.
  • Coverage for outpatient and inpatient services, prescriptions, and preventive care.
  • Reduced costs for dental and vision care.

Visit the Korean Employment Insurance website for more information:

III.. What is Four Social Insurances for Foreign Workers?

The Sadaeboheom (사대보험), commonly referred to in English as the "Four Major Social Insurances" in South Korea, encompasses a comprehensive social security system designed to provide coverage for health, retirement, employment instability, and workplace accidents for all foreign workers (after 6 months). Here's a breakdown of each category with their Korean titles and explanations:

Visit the NHIS official website for more information:

Additional Considerations

  • Premiums: For both NHIS and 사대보험, premiums are shared between the employer and the employee, deducted directly from the salary.
  • Voluntary Enrollment: Foreign residents not automatically covered under an employer's plan can opt for voluntary enrollment in NHIS.
  • Comprehensive Coverage: The combination of NHIS and 사대보험 ensures that foreign workers are fully protected across various aspects of health and welfare.

IV. Insurance Options for Travelers and Students in South Korea

Travelers: Visitors on short stays can opt for travel insurance from their home country that covers international medical expenses. However, emergency medical services are available to all, regardless of insurance status.

Visit the Korea Tourism Organization's official website for more information about travel insurance:

Students: International students are required to enroll in either NHIS or a university-provided health insurance plan, ensuring they have basic health coverage during their stay.

Visit the NIIED's official Study in Korea website for more information:

IV. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do I enroll in the NHIS as a foreigner?

Visit your local NHIS office with your Alien Registration Card and complete the enrollment form. A monthly premium will be calculated based on your income.

What health care services are covered under NHIS?

NHIS covers a wide range of services, including outpatient visits, hospitalization, prescriptions, and preventive care, with co-payments applying to most services. Non-essential medications and cosmetic surgeries are not generally covered.

Are there any English-speaking medical facilities?

Yes, many hospitals in major cities have international clinics with English-speaking staff to assist foreigners. Most doctors and staff in major cities can speak a sufficient amount of English.

How does health insurance work for foreigners on short stays?

Short-term visitors should secure travel insurance that covers medical expenses in Korea, as NHIS coverage requires a six-month minimum stay.

What should foreign workers know about health insurance contributions?

Premiums are typically split between the employer and the employee, directly deducted from the salary, ensuring seamless coverage for the duration of employment.

Understanding the health insurance and healthcare system in South Korea as a foreigner, student, or traveler can be straightforward with the right information. By learning about your eligibility and the available coverage options, you can ensure access to high-quality medical care during your stay, keeping health concerns to a minimum during your stay.

Cover photo source: Amjd Rdwan (Unsplash)

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