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Vice finance minister lends support to presidential aide’s call for telemedicine

Despite potential for backlash, government hints it may pursue plan to nurture industry

Vice Finance Minister Kim Yong-beom speaks at a press briefing Thursday at the Seoul Government Complex. (Yonhap)
Vice Finance Minister Kim Yong-beom speaks at a press briefing Thursday at the Seoul Government Complex. (Yonhap)

A top-level official on Thursday expressed support for a plan to nurture the telemedicine industry in response to escalating demand for non-face-to-face health care services amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Ministry of Economy and Finance is sticking to the stance that the government needs to review the implementation of telemedicine,” Vice Finance Minister Kim Yong-beom said Thursday.

“As the number of related phone calls have neared 170,000 so far, under the temporarily alleviated rules in light of COVID-19, we shall now carry out a detailed study on the pros and cons (of telemedicine).”

The government hopes newly elected lawmakers will revise laws in the 21st National Assembly to ease restrictions on telemedicine in South Korea and start discussions on accountability in the event of failures, Kim added.

The senior fiscal policymaker’s remarks came during a press briefing held at Seoul Government Complex to elaborate on Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki’s earlier announcement on job creation initiatives.

It also echoed the stance of Kim Yeon-myeong, senior presidential secretary for social affairs.

“Despite some dissent over telemedicine, positive appraisals have also been on the rise recently, so we are reviewing the possibility,” Kim said Wednesday during a forum attended by the ruling Democratic Party’s lawmakers-elect at the National Assembly.

The Blue House and the ruling party, however, added that Kim’s comment did not necessarily mean tangible action was being considered, apparently anticipating a backlash from conventional medical institutions and other stakeholders.

By Choi Jae-hee (cjh@heraldcorp.com)
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