Asian Bioethics Review

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 41–56 | Cite as

Ethical Consideration of National Health Insurance Reform for Universal Health Coverage in the Republic of Korea

  • Yuri Lee
  • Siwoo Kim
  • So Yoon Kim
  • Ganglip KimEmail author
Original Paper


In the current era of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), many countries are attempting to strengthen their health system and achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC). The Korean National Health Insurance (NHI) system functions as a core element of health financing, contributing to achieving UHC by promoting public health and social security through insurance benefits for prevention, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, childbirth, and health promotion. The Republic of Korea achieved 100% NHI coverage of the target population in 1989, 12 years after the introduction of the social insurance system. However, poor coverage of health services and lack of financial protection are major obstacles to achieving UHC. Therefore, the Korean government announced and implemented ‘Moon Jae-in Care’ in August 2017 to enhance the coverage rate of NHI by 70%. First, this study reviews the existing health insurance system in Korea from the perspective of health financing and UHC. Second, it analyses ‘Moon Jae-in Care’, based on the main framework of UHC. Third, it considers the ethical implications of these developments, with focus on the principles of equity, fairness, autonomy, and solidarity. Although the NHI reform is expected to propel Korean health care closer to UHC, many ethical, social, and political issues remain.


National Health Insurance Universal Health Coverage Republic of Korea Sustainable Development Goals Moon Jae-In Care 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© National University of Singapore and Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yuri Lee
    • 1
    • 2
  • Siwoo Kim
    • 1
  • So Yoon Kim
    • 1
    • 3
  • Ganglip Kim
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Asian Institute for Bioethics and Health LawYonsei UniversitySeoulRepublic of Korea
  2. 2.Graduate School of Public HealthYonsei UniversitySeoulRepublic of Korea
  3. 3.Department of Medical Law and Ethics, College of MedicineYonsei UniversitySeoulRepublic of Korea
  4. 4.Office for Planning and CoordinationMinistry of Health and WelfareSejongRepublic of Korea

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