Washington governor Jay Inslee discusses collaborative development on technological advances in healthcare between Korea and Washington State at the Korea-US ICT Forum in Seoul, Korea. Image: KISA.

South Korea and United States Collaborate on IT and Healthcare


The Korea-US ICT Forum, organized by the Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA) in Washington State and the Korea Internet & Security Agency (KISA), was held in Seoul in early September, 2015. The event dealt with cloud-based applications and the so-called “Internet of Things,” both of which could be especially beneficial to the healthcare industry. One of the agencies hosting the event, the Korean American Chamber of Commerce in Washington (KACCWA), anticipates that leveraging Washington State’s IT startup ecosystem will have synergistic benefits for healthcare IT infrastructure in both countries. The forum attracted entrepreneurs, IT experts, investors, students, and government leaders from Korea and Washington to take part in the discussion and begin collaboration.

The “Internet of Things” concept is relatively new, and could have big ramifications in healthcare. When you get up in the morning, your smart bed will transmit your sleep pattern information to your physician. Your high-end refrigerator, based on data indicating a deficiency of protein in your body, advises you to have an egg and a cup of milk for breakfast. While commuting to the office, your cutting-edge watch will inform you of how many calories you have burned. You might get a message from your doctor telling you to go for a walk after lunch because of your blood sugar levels.

These “smart” objects all comprise the Internet of Things, which features thousands of sensors all around us to continuously capture data. In the healthcare sector, that data would be things like temperature, blood glucose level, electrocardiograms, and so on. The basic logic of such an infrastructure in healthcare is for well-arranged communication among many sensors to continuously monitor the body’s condition in an effort to respond adaptively to symptoms as they occur, rather than allowing problems to build up between scheduled trips to the doctor’s office. For example, there was an outstanding 64% decrease in hospital readmissions for patients whose blood pressure and oxygen saturation levels were observed remotely. With success metrics like that, it is no surprise that there is forecasted to be a $117 billion market by 2020 in the healthcare industry for smart devices to connect to the Internet of Things, according to MarketResearch.com.

According to the Association of Washington Businesses, the state’s healthcare system is one of the top in the United States. One of every 10 workers is employed in the healthcare industry, giving the state a wealth of expertise. Considering the increasing healthcare spending in the US, which accounted for 16.4% of GDP in 2013 and ranked as the highest expenditure in the world, being a pioneer in technology that will help bring down healthcare costs for consumers is a natural role for Washington. South Korea also has a strong reputation for developing high-end electronics, “smart” devices, and for having a healthcare industry that is respected by Americans. With their reputations as hot-beds for developing advanced technology, Korea and Washington are perfect partners to pursue this technology together.

Minseong Baek is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and an Asan Washington Young Fellow at Asan Academy in Seoul.