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Korean doctors, nurses likely to get more work visas
By Cho Chung-un The Korean government is to suggest a plan on sharing the nation`s medical professionals with the United States during the third round of the free trade talks scheduled next month, the Ministry of Health and Welfare said yesterday.

The plan on pushing ahead with a "mutual recognition agreement" will allow medical workers from both nations perform medical treatments freely with their licenses accepted in either country.

If the agreement is reached, the nation`s registered medical professionals will be able to work in the U.S. without fulfilling additional requirements. Doctors and nurses from the United States will also be allowed to work here in accordance with the mutual pact.

The plan, however, is less likely to be realized as U.S. negotiators are currently opposing the proposal, said an official in charge of international affairs at the ministry.

"There is no precedent for countries to have reached such an agreement with the United States. Korea and the U.S. are likely to set a quota system instead, to allow more medical professionals acquire work visas in relative countries," said the official.

Doctors` groups are welcoming the idea while some experts worry that the plan will cause exodus of highly skilled medical workers here.

"Korea already has too many doctors with 3,000 getting new licenses every year. (If the agreement reached between the two), it will do away with an overflowing number of doctors here," said Oh Yoon-soo, publicist of Korean Medical Association. The KMA is an advocacy group of the nation`s doctors.

Korea and the United States are scheduled to begin the third round of FTA talks on Sept. 5 in Seattle.

The second round of formal free trade talks between both nations ended earlier than scheduled last month mainly because of disagreements over the pharmaceutical sector.

U.S. officials are against the Korean government`s new policy of reimbursing patients for medicines approved by the nation`s Health Ministry as drugs under the so-called "positive list." Washington and U.S. drugmakers oppose the plan, claiming that several costly American-made drugs may lose insurance benefits due to the new policy.

The two countries launched the FTA talks in Washington in early June.

Both plan to sign a formal deal by early next year, as the U.S. president`s Trade Promotion Authority, which allows a deal to be approved by Congress without amendments, expires at the end of June next year.

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