In the 1960s in South Korea, relatively few ethical issues in healthcare appeared in the media. In the 1970s, there was significant media coverage of the Mother-Child Health Act, strikes for medical trainees, and the refusal of medical treatment. In the 1980s, relevant media attention focused on medical accidents, active euthanasia, and fetal sex discrimination. And in the 1990s, significant media attention was given to brain death legislation, drug rebates, and human cloning. Until the 1970s, rebates in the healthcare sector were reported as a problem concerning pharmaceutical distribution as opposed to a problem with the ethics of doctors or medical institutions. In 1988, when the National Health Insurance system was established, rebates in the healthcare sector began to be viewed as criminal acts. Based on an analysis of the media coverage of the ethical issues in South Korea’s healthcare system from 1945 to 1999, this article draws the following four conclusions. First, medical ethics in South Korea are not properly distinguished from laws governing medical practice. Second, the development of medical technology has influenced the understanding and practice of medical ethics. Third, the medical profession is less able to regulate itself now than it was in the 1960s. Fourth, rebates in the healthcare sector have been over-criminalized.