JEJU, South Korea, Uncertainty appears to be growing for the Greenland International Medical Center, conditionally approved last year as South Korea's first for-profit hospital, as its mandatory opening date draws closer.

The Chinese-owned medical center has shown little signs of taking opening procedures, though it is obliged by South Korea's medical law to start medical services before March 4, according to officials at the Jeju Special Self-Governing Province.

The hospital doesn't have a single doctor as of now and has not taken any procedures to hire doctors, the officials said.

If the medical center fails to hire doctors and launch medical service by March 4, its medical business license can be revoked through a public hearing, they noted.

The Greenland medical center received the final approval from the Jeju government as South Korea's first for-profit hospital on Dec. 5 last year, putting an end to 16 years of controversy over the introduction of investor-owned medical institutions.

The approval was given on condition that the hospital cater only to foreign patients, but its Chinese investor, the Shanghai-based Greenland Group, immediately expressed an intent to take legal action over the ban on South Korean patients.

A for-profit hospital is a medical institution that combines foreign capital with domestic medical resources and provides comprehensive medical services to foreign patients.

Under the current law, the Greenland medical center must begin medical services within 90 days after obtaining its approval.

The hospital had hired 134 medical workers, including nine doctors, 28 nurses, 10 nursing assistants and 18 international coordinators, as of August 2017, when it applied for the approval from the provincial government.

As the opening was delayed by more than one year, however, all of the nine doctors in charge of the plastic surgery, dermatology, internal medicine and family medicine departments quit.

Unless the hospital completes the hiring of doctors and submits their licenses to the authorities by the end of February, its opening in early March will be virtually impossible.

If the Greenland medical center withdraws from the medical business, the Chinese investor may launch a lawsuit to demand compensation for its Jeju investment totaling about 80 billion won (US$72 million).

"The provincial government is open to any further consultation with Greenland Group, if such a request is made," a provincial government official said. "It is believed the Chinese investor has been examining various options."

Source: Yonhap news Agency