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Osong Public Health Res Perspect > 6(2); 2015 > Article

Cho and Chu: From Seoul to Lima: Korean Doctors in Peru
The Republic of Korea has unique Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) Officers with its own EIS program in Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). Some of the medical school graduate men are recruited for their mandatory military service as EIS officers on a voluntary basis. They serve two or three years in epidemiological investigation and return to their own specialties [1].
Last year one interesting young doctor joined KCDC and worked with EIS officers and he told us that he had worked in Peru as an International Cooperation Doctor (ICD) for his mandatory military service. We have never heard of that, and asked him the history of ICDs and found that it is worthwhile to have an article to get the whole picture of the program when we got the information the ICD policy was about to be abolished in 2016.
The Republic of Korea dispatches Korean nationals to partner developing countries as an ODA project through the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) which is founded as a government agency [2]. In the health sector, KOICA dispatches several health professionals such as international cooperation doctors (ICDs), nurses, physical therapists, radiologic technologists, nutritionists, medical laboratory technologists, occupational therapists, and dental hygienists. KOICA began to dispatch volunteers to Peru in 1996. The first volunteers consisted of four professionals, including one ICD. KOICA overseas office in Peru was founded in 2000, and a memorandum of understanding about volunteers dispatched between Peruvian and Korean governments was signed on December 5, 2003 [3].
The author has made a meticulous investigation on ICD program in his paper. A total of 216 ICDs were dispatched over 19 times from 1995 until 2013. There were 19 areas of specialties among the ICDs. The most common specialty was internal medicine (61/216, 28.2%), the second most common specialty was general surgery (43/216, 19.9%), followed by oriental medicine (27/216, 12.5%), pediatrics (17/216, 7.9%), orthopedics (16/216, 7.4%), family medicine (16/216, 7.4%), and odontology (14/216, 6.5%). The ICDs have worked in 21 countries. KOICA dispatched the highest number of ICDs to Asia (97/216, 44.9%), followed by Africa (50/216, 23.1%), Latin America (34/216, 15.7%), the commonwealth of independent states (31/216, 14.4%), and Oceania (4/216, 1.9%). Nobody was dispatched to the Middle East. A total of 134 KOICA health professionals were dispatched to Peru from 1996 until October 1, 2014. Of these, 19.4% (26/134) were ICDs, 44.8% (60/216) were nurses, 20.1% (27/134) were physical therapists, 6.7% (9/134) were radiologic technologists, 2.2% (3/134) were nutritionists, and 6.7% (9/134) were medical laboratory. ICDs' specialties consisted in internal medicine (13/26, 50%), family medicine (8/26, 30.8%), pediatrics (2/26, 7.7%), otorhinolaryngology (1/26, 3.8%), orthopedics (1/26, 3.8%), and oriental medicine (1/26, 3.8%). Most of the dispatched health professionals worked at institutions that were supported by KOICA. For this reason, the proportion of health professionals who worked at public health centers (PHCs) was the highest (58.2%, 78/134) when classified by workplace type. Other KOICA health professionals worked at hospitals, governmental organizations (GOs), or schools. [4].
The study on ICDs is the first appearance in serious biomedical journals and the program soon be terminated in 2016 with last ICDs dispatched in 2013 [10]. Author concluded the abolishment of ICD program is due to decreasing number of medical school graduate males due to change of medical school system in Korea. Korea medical school system has shifted to graduate medical school system: most male students apply to the medical graduate school after they fulfill the requirement of military service. The same is true for EIS officers in KCDC. KCDC is now replacing exiting EIS officers with new regular government officials of medical and epidemiological academic background [1, 4].

Notes

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0) which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

References
1. Kwon G.Y., Moon S., Kwak W.. Epidemic Intelligence Service Program and Field Epidemiology Program in Korea. Osong Public Health Res Perspect 4(4):2013 Aug;215–221. PMID: 24159559.

2. http://www.koica.go.kr.

3. http://kov.koica.go.kr/hom/.

4. Kim B.. Review for the Korea Health Professionals and International Cooperation Doctors Dispatched to Peru by the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). Osong Public Health Res Perspect 6(2):2015 Apr;133–139.