South Korean TV documentary exposes ongoing transplant abuses in China

South Korean television documentary footage of Tianjin First Central Hospital, where many South Koreas travel for organ transplant surgery. (Screenshot via YouTube)

A recent documentary produced by South Korean TV Chosun that aired in November 2017 explores ethical dilemmas facing Koreans regarding organ transplantation. The film explains that only ten percent of the 32,000 Koreans currently waiting for organs will ever receive them. As South Korea has low voluntary organ donation rates, many Koreans choose to forgo the five year wait for a kidney transplant and instead, take advantage of the easy access to and short wait times for organs in Chinese hospitals.

The “Investigative Report 7” team traveled to an unnamed hospital in Tianjin, China with the medical documents of a Korean man in need of a kidney to inquire about obtaining an organ for him. With hidden cameras they interviewed the head nurse and an elderly Korean patient who was recovering from a recent transplant operation.

The nurse explained that a kidney could be obtained in just weeks or even sooner if extra money was donated to the hospital. She said that transplantation is growing in popularity among certain Middle Eastern countries and the process is overseen through each country’s consulate. The hospital also owns a hotel where family members can stay throughout relatives’ transplant surgeries.

After traveling to Chongqing Hospital, the undercover team was shown plans of the “Primary brain stem injury impacting machine,” patented by former police chief Wang Lijun, that causes human brain stem death while keeping all retail organs alive and healthy.

The TV team also interviewed two Korean doctors who have been sending patients to China for organs. One refused to speak to the production team while the other did not express any remorse for his actions. It is believed that many doctors and major hospitals in Korea cooperate with transplant tourism to China in the delivery of both pre and post transplant care.

The Korean public was outraged by the documentary.