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Article South Korea: National Health Insurance Act Amended to Add Residency Requirements for Foreign Dependents

On January 2, 2024, a law passed by South Korea’s National Assembly (Act No. 19885) to amend the National Health Insurance Act (Act No. 11141, Dec. 31, 2011, as amended) was published in the official gazette (Gwanbo). The amendment added residency conditions that dependents of foreigners employed in South Korea and covered by the national health insurance must fulfill to be eligible for health insurance coverage.

Employee Health Insurance and the Content of the New Law

Foreigners residing in South Korea who are employed, with some exceptions, are covered by national health insurance if they

  • are registered under the Resident Registration Act,
  • have reported their place of residence in South Korea in accordance with the Act on Immigration and Legal Status of Overseas Koreans (Act No. 6015, Sep. 2, 1999, as amended), and
  • have filed for alien registration in accordance with the Immigration Act (Act No. 4522, Dec. 8, 1992, as amended). (National Health Insurance Act art. 109, para. 2.)

To be covered by the national health insurance as a dependent of an insured foreigner, the dependent must satisfy one of the above conditions and be supported mainly by the insured employee. Moreover, the amount of any income they earn or value of property they own must fall below the standards prescribed by an ordinance.

A dependent must have one of the following relationships with an insured employee:

  • Spouse.
  • Lineal ascendant, including lineal ascendant of the spouse.
  • Lineal descendant and their spouse, including lineal descendant of the spouse. (Art. 5, para. 2; art. 109, para. 4.)

In addition, the amendment added a six-month residency requirement for the dependent. However, this requirement does not apply to the insured employee’s spouse and their children (including the spouse’s children) under the age of 19. (New art. 109, para. 4, subpara. 3, referring to art. 109, para. 3, subpara. 1; National Health Insurance Act Enforcement Decree, Ministry of Health and Welfare (MHW) Decree No. 157, Aug. 31, 2012, as amended, art. 61-2, para. 1.) To be insured, the dependent must file an application with the National Health Insurance Service, which is responsible for operating the health insurance program under the supervision of the MHW. (National Health Insurance Act art. 109, para. 4.)

The Reported Purpose of the Amendment

According to the Korean Herald, “There have been many cases of foreign family members, including parents of the subscribers of Korea’s universal health insurance system, visiting Korea to receive health insurance benefits such as treatment and surgery despite not living” in South Korea. In addition, BusinessKorea reports that the aim of the amendment “is to prevent foreigners who reside in the country for a short duration from becoming dependents” and that some believe “foreigners are draining” the health insurance fund.

Sayuri Umeda, Law Library of Congress
January 26, 2024

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Chicago citation style:

Umeda, Sayuri. South Korea: National Health Insurance Act Amended to Add Residency Requirements for Foreign Dependents. 2024. Web Page. https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2024-01-25/south-korea-national-health-insurance-act-amended-to-add-residency-requirements-for-foreign-dependents/.

APA citation style:

Umeda, S. (2024) South Korea: National Health Insurance Act Amended to Add Residency Requirements for Foreign Dependents. [Web Page] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2024-01-25/south-korea-national-health-insurance-act-amended-to-add-residency-requirements-for-foreign-dependents/.

MLA citation style:

Umeda, Sayuri. South Korea: National Health Insurance Act Amended to Add Residency Requirements for Foreign Dependents. 2024. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2024-01-25/south-korea-national-health-insurance-act-amended-to-add-residency-requirements-for-foreign-dependents/>.