Korea is after a piece of the medical travel market and has cleared the way for state-licensed clinics and hospitals to directly seek foreign patients as part of the country’s efforts to become Asia’s new medical tourism hub.

Lee Young-ho, marketing director of the Global Healthcare Business Center, says “We expect about US $221 million in revenue this year in this sector, which will grow fast amid our aggressive overseas marketing. We expect more than 40 local travel agencies and hundreds of hospitals and clinics to apply for state licences”.

South Korea expects 50,000 foreigners will seek treatment in its healthcare facilities this year compared to 27,480 overseas-based patients who arrived in 2008. By 2013, the number of medical travellers to South Korea will reach about 200,000.

The Council for Korea Medicine Overseas Promotion, a government-sponsored institution that promotes medical tourism in Korea, said it hopes to raise the number to 140,000 by 2012, but the health ministry expects that figure not to be reached until 2015.

Forty-four major hospitals, including the “Big Four” – Seoul National University Hospital, Samsung Medical Center, Asan Medical Center and Yonsei Severance Hospital and some national and public hospitals will reserve five per cent of their beds for foreigners. Asiana Airlines, Korea’s second-largest passenger carrier has a new agreement with Hanyang University Medical Center to support and promote medical tourism.

Head Of The Line
Canadians’ main complaint about our healthcare system is wait times for tests and treatments. With direct flights from Canada, medical travel to Korea offers a cost-effective solution to get to the front of the line with waiting time no longer than two weeks.

The country provides a world-class healthcare services featuring highly advanced facilities and cutting-edge technology that are managed by the government through hospital accreditation and strict evaluation programs. All hospitals in Korea are not-for-profit organizations, keeping patient safety and satisfaction comes first instead of profitability and Korean physicians, medical specialists and surgeons are well-respected among international medical societies.

And then there is the price. Medical care in Korea can cost 20 to 30 per cent of the same care in the U.S. and is less expensive than international hospitals in China or private hospitals in Singapore.
Major procedures and services offered in Korean healthcare facilities include:

• Health Screening
• Joint/Rheumatism Care
• Korean Traditional Medicine
• Ophthalmology
• Dental Care
• Cosmetic Surgery
• Infertility Treatment
• Otorhinolaryngology
• Spinal Treatment
• Cancer Treatment
• Organ Transplantation

Healthcare Town For Jeju
Jeju, about an hour’s flight from Seoul, is out to get a share of South Korea medical tourism traffic with plans to transform the island into a resort-style medical tourism centre.

The Jeju Free International City Development Center (JDC) has unveiled plans for “Healthcare Town”, a joint project of the South Korean Government and the private sector. The government will provide US $99 million while the rest of the estimated US $315 million price tag will be provided by the private sector.

JDC hopes to attract medical travellers by marrying Jeju Island’s clean and green natural environment with cutting-edge healthcare. Overseas patients will be provided with a variety of health and treatment options, ranging from medical examinations and obesity treatments to wellness therapies.
The Healthcare Town plans to open early in 2011.

For more information, visit www.visitkorea.or.kr.

Related content on Canadian Traveller