Korea to unveil medical care plans for pets in October

The policies will focus on offering specialized medical services for pets and lessening the financial burden for households.

Im Eun-byel

Im Eun-byel

The Korea Herald


A dog is at the 2023 K-Pet Fair held at Coex in Gangnam-gu, southeastern Seoul on July 21. PHOTO: YONHAP/THE KOREA HERALD

August 10, 2023

SEOUL – The South Korean government plans to propose new policies to improve its medical care system for pets amid a growing pet population in the country.

The number of households with dogs or cats in Korea came to 6.02 million last year, rising sharply by 65.4 percent from 3.64 million in 2012, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ report at an intergovernmental meeting held Wednesday.

According to the ministry, local households spend an average of 60,000 won ($45) per month to provide medical care for pets which takes up nearly 40 percent of the monthly average care expenses for pets tallied at 150,000 won.

Recognizing the need to improve the medical care system for pets, the government will release a set of new policies in October. The policies will focus on offering specialized medical services for pets and lessening the financial burden for households.

Separately, the exemption on value-added taxes will be expanded to some 100 essential or frequently required veterinary services for pets from Oct. 1.

The exemption, currently imposed only on a few medical services for pets such as vaccination and neutering, will be expanded to include tests such as X-rays, ultrasound scans, computerized tomography scans, treatment for pneumonia and diarrhea.

“The expansion of exemptions on value-added tax will lessen the burden on medical costs for households with pets,” Kim Se-jin, an official from the Agriculture Ministry said. “We will work on a soft landing of the policies in close cooperation with veterinary circles.”

The authorities will work on standardizing medical services for pets as well, as each veterinary clinic offers similar services under different names and procedures. The standardization will come within January.

The pet insurance system will also be tackled. Less than 0.89 percent of registered dogs and cats in the country were covered under pet insurance as of 2022. The government will encourage companies to expand coverage of the types of pet care services, including serious conditions such as cardiac surgeries and cancers.

The Financial Services Commission and the Agriculture Ministry will jointly announce the measures to improve pet insurance in September.

As Korea’s pet industry remains relatively small, tallying at 8 trillion won — a small portion of the global market worth $378.1 billion as of last year — the government hopes to expand the overall industry to 15 trillion won by 2027, nearly double its current size.

It has set the goal to export pet food worth $500 million by 2027, up from $149 million in 2022. It will come up with a separate classification system for pet food, different from the existing system for livestock feed. Making pet food products that meet global standards in terms of nutrition, packaging and advertising is also on the agenda.

A revision on related laws is set to be made next year.

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