Jeju authorities have cancelled a permit to launch a Chinese-owned hospital on Korea's southernmost island on Wednesday.
Governor Won Hee-ryong announced the decision, saying that Greenland International Hospital had missed the three-month deadline on launching its services last month.
He added that the hospital did not provide a sufficient excuse on the delay and requested an extension of the opening period only when the deadline was almost up.
Owned by Shanghai-based Greenland Group, the medical center was set to become the country's first investor-owned, or for-profit hospital.
In Korea, all hospitals are classified as non-profit, requiring earnings to be invested into improving services, rather than generating profit for shareholders.
However, for-profit hospitals can attract foreign direct investment as well as a so-called brain gain of talented personnel.
That's why the law permits for-profit institutions to be built on Jeju Island and eight free economic zones, if the share of foreign investment is at least 50 percent.
However, critics argue that this would derail the national healthcare system, which subsidizes medical costs for citizens, and lead to a slippery slope of rising medical costs for the general Korean public.
The debate has been ongoing since construction plans for Greenland was approved in 2015 by the health ministry.
Given the various concerns, the Jeju government last year finally gave the green light but on the condition that Greenland International Hospital only treats foreign patients.
However, Greenland Group cried foul, filling a lawsuit against the Jeju government in February, and showed little signs of meeting last month's operation launch deadline.
As uncertainty remains on the future of the three-story hospital, it's expected the public will be just as divided as ever on whether limiting for-profit medical centers protects or harms the public's right to decent healthcare.
Oh Soo-young, Arirang News.