South Korea has a National Health Insurance (NHI) system, which is compulsory and required by Korean law. Everyone resident in the country is eligible regardless of nationality or profession. The National Health Insurance Corporation (NHIC) is the only public insurance institution operated by the Ministry of Health and Welfare in Korea.
The Korea Herald February 2015 coverage of this new requirement clarifies that it is, indeed, mandatory.
Health insurance now mandatory for foreign students
All foreign students in Korea will be required to subscribe to the national health insurance program as part of the state’s efforts to better secure their living conditions during their stay, welfare officials said Wednesday.
All foreign nationals with proof of staying in Korea for more than three months have been allowed to join the public health care system but the subscription has not been compulsory.
In order to boost the health insurance subscription, the Health and Welfare Ministry said it would temporarily exempt the benefit-seeking foreign students from paying a late fee for the first two months. Under the national insurance law, those who belatedly apply for public insurance after their arrival are required to pay the premiums for the period of time they were here uninsured.
More than 89,000 foreign students on D-2 visas were studying in Korea as of November, with the number gradually rising, law officials said.
About 5,500 of them (62 percent) were Chinese, followed by Vietnamese and Mongolian, with some 4,900 and 3,700, respectively.
Self-employed or jobless foreigners who wish to join Korea’s health care system must pay the average monthly local insurance premium for three months to gain eligibility. The average amount is largely determined by the region they live in but is usually around 80,000 won ($74).
D- and F-visa holders ― which include students, foreign spouses and ethnic Koreans ― are exempted from paying the three-month fee.
Foreign employees belong to the work insurance category, in which half the premium is automatically deducted from the monthly paycheck and the other half is paid by the employer. The amount of the premium is proportional to income.
By Lee Hyun-jeong (firstname.lastname@example.org)