Korea’s remarkable growth in the medical tourism industry within the last decade shows no signs of slowing down. In an age in which health matters are of growing concern, the country is going to considerable lengths to make visitors feel more at home and properly cared for in the hands of highly trained medical personnel.
Boosted by an increasing number of multilingual experts in modern and oriental medicine, state-of-the-art facilities, affordable pricing and solid IT infrastructure, South Korea is prepped to become the leading medical tourism destination in Asia. Recent government amendments to both tourism and medical laws are also making conditions increasingly favorable for foreigners.
Korea is already well on its way to attracting 85,000 foreign patients by the end of this year, an increase of about 40% from 60,000 in 2009. Equally impressive is the staggering 340% increase in foreign visits to beauty and dermatology clinics in Seoul’s affluent Gangnam area since 2009. At this rate, the government forecasts 1 million foreign medical visitors by the year 2020.*
To keep up with rising interest, the Korea government has been very instrumental in supporting the industry and has designated the Korean Tourism Organization (KTO) to handle the majority of its promotional responsibilities. Deputy Director Hyungtaek Lim for KTO’s Medical Tourism Center asserts that Korea’s expertise is more than ready to welcome such rising demand.
“Korea has one of the most specialized medical industries in the world, with highly advanced technologies,”Lim reports. “In addition, doctors must undergo a rigorous 11-year training period before they are able to specialize.”
Korea is already well on its way to attracting 85,000 foreign patients by the
end of this year, an increase of about 40% from 60,000 in 2009.
Doctors here are revered for their remarkable motor skills. This results in far shorter surgery and treatment times,which are just what patients who are on short-term visits need. According to a market-research survey of international patients visiting Korea for medical tourism, 48% cited “the quality of medical service and technology” as their central reason for choosing Korea.
Although Korea is widely known for its cosmetic procedures, medical services for serious, debilitating illnesses are also on the rise. Studies show that foreign travelers who sought treatment last year revealed that the reasons ranged from plastic surgery and oriental medicine to spinal, heart and prostrate treatments and surgery.
But perhaps what will keep Korea ahead of the industry is its IT infrastructure. A world leader in Internet speed and accessibility, the country can seamlessly provide a wide range of one-stop multilingual medical services online. The KTO web site (www.visitkorea.or.kr) acts as a liaison, offering a series of guidelines on medical tourism in Korea, with plenty of resourceful tips from participating medical institutions.
*Renub Research, 2009
The Korean Advantage
A Healthy Balance of Modern and Oriental Medicine
With the number of global medical tourists expected to reach 40 million by the end of 2010, Korea is more than ready as it combines traditional Korean medicine with modern medical technology.
Korea has one of the highest cancer survival rates in the world. Its advanced screening physical examinations offer a high level of accuracy. Up to 60 types of examinations are made available to visitors and test results are given one to two days later. Korea’s use of da Vinci robot surgery is also highly accurate and ensures speedy recovery times because incisions are minimally invasive.
Korean medical centers provide proton therapy, which is highly effective in the treatment of solid tumors, and TomoTherapy, which delivers pinpoint radiation to cancerous tissue, leaving healthy tissue virtually untouched. Proton therapy and TomoTherapy are exceptionally accurate and have fewer side effects than conventional radiation treatments.
Revolutionary IT Infrastructure
Korea’s stable and reliable IT infrastructure ensures the safekeeping of and quick access to patient medical records. There is also a wealth of online resources and services to make their lives easier. The Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) has an exclusive partnership with 70 hospitals that employ multilingual medical personnel. This enables the KTO to provide links and information to meet patient needs.
Highly Trained Medical Experts
The KTO conducts regular medical tourism seminars for skilled medical personnel to keep them abreast of the latest breakthroughs. The seminars are taught by distinguished experts actively practicing in the field. Medical tourism experts are educated in medical tourism-related courses tailored to a strict curriculum that includes language interpretation, nursing care and tourism guidance to ensure that visitors feel right at home. Many doctors are proficient in English, reducing the worry of misinterpretation during assessment.
Doctors specializing in traditional oriental medicine undergo training for six years. Painless, nonsurgical treatments are used to alleviate aches, pains and fatigue and effectively ease symptoms associated with arthritis and muscle pain, diseases plaguing many in today’s modern world. Boasting a 2,000-yearold history, Korean traditional medicine targets the root of the illness, relying on the body’s own strengths to overcome its symptoms and prevent the illness from recurring. Visits to homeopathic clinics include individual assessment according to body constitution.
Medical tourism experts are educated in medical tourism-related courses
tailored to a strict curriculum that includes language interpretation, nursing care
and tourism guidance to ensure that visitors feel right at home.
Herbal treatment and medical acupuncture— both noninvasive procedures—are becoming increasingly popular with Japanese visitors. Korea has developed homegrown traditional remedies according to the ancient beliefs of scholars of traditional medicine that are acknowledged today, even by those who practice modern medicine.