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I am going to be an exchange student at a Korean university. I have my own travel insurance plan from my home country. It covers the whole sojourn period, all planned activities and is valid worldwide.

People from my host university told me I need to join the Korean health insurance system because it is required by Korean Ministry of Education. I.e. I have to pay $150 for that service.

I've found information that some health insurance is mandatory for all foreign students in Korea since 2015. But no intelligible information that I have to join the Korean one, when I already have completely suitable insurance contract.

I don't speak Korean. Therefore, I was not successful with Google. Communication with school representatives leads to nowhere (bad English, too busy, "we were told to do so" approach etc.).

Is this insurance really obligatory?

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    This seems more like University policy issue. If their policy is that all foreign students must have the insurance then that's probably that. They may get a group rate- $150 seems extremely cheap. According to this site private or National insurance are possibilities. – Spehro Pefhany Aug 26 '15 at 18:25
  • No private insurance is "suitable" or "duplicate" since they function in the completely other way as the public health service. Question should be reworded, because in current state of art, it's offensive and rant-like. – user9879 Aug 4 '16 at 8:11
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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 (rene@heraldcorp.com)

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