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Korea Sports Best Achievents among Asian Countries in Medical Tourism Development

Korea Sports Best Achievents among Asian Countries in Medical Tourism Development

Monday February 13, 2012

Korea posted a net surplus in medical tourism for the first time last year, as foreigners spent more than 100 million U.S. dollars in the sector in Korea.

According to data released by the Bank of Korea Tuesday, income from health-related tourism in 2011 reached 115.60 million dollars (150.28 billion dollars), the largest amount since the country started tallying the data in 2006. Koreans spent 109.1 million dollars (123.283 billion won) overseas on medical treatment and related purposes.

As a result, Korea`s surplus in medical tourism was 6.5 million dollars last year as its income exceeded its outbound payments in the field for the first time.

Korea’s medical tourism income was just 59 million dollars (66.67 billion won) in 2006, but rose to 69.8 million dollars in 2008 and 89.5 million dollars in 2010, nearly doubling over a five-year period. In contrast, the money Korean nationals spent overseas for treatment edged down from 119.1 million dollars in 2006 (134.583 billion won) to 109.1 million dollars in 2011.

The numbers were tallied based on the purpose of visits to Korea that foreigners reported to banks when they exchanged their currencies exceeding certain amounts upon entering Korea, and businesses they paid with their credit cards in Korea.

The growth of Korea`s medical tourism was also shown in statistics from the Health and Welfare Ministry. According to the ministry and the Korea Health Industry Development Institute, the number of foreign patients who visited Korea was 81,789 as of 2010.

They spent a combined 130.8 billion won (117 million dollars) in Korea, including 107.1 billion won (95 million dollars) on medical expenses and 23.7 billion won (21 million dollars) on tourism. With medical tourism galvanized, 1,529 jobs were created, including 1,136 in medicine and 394 in tourism.

The think tank predicts that at this pace, as many as 400,000 foreign patients will visit Korea by 2018. When this happens, Korea is expected to rake in 1.5 trillion won (1.34 billion dollars) in medical expenses and tourism and create 16,691 jobs.

In the past, Chinese and Japanese visited Korea primarily for cosmetic surgery and skin care but more patients with serious illnesses are coming for treatment.

Diseases requiring highly advanced medical technology for treatment including cancer, brain and vascular diseases, and heart disease are highly sought after by foreign patients in Korea. A combined 9,993 patients with such diseases sought treatment in Korea, or 12 percent of all foreign patients in Korea, and spent 55 billion won (49 million dollars), or more than half of foreign tourists’ medical spending.

Oriental medicine, gynecology and orthopedics in Korea are also seeing growing popularity among foreigners. Accordingly, the portion of treatment through “highly lucrative” hospitalization is increasing in tandem. The portion of foreign inpatients stood at 6.5 percent in 2009, but jumped to 9.8 percent over a one-year period.

A Health and Welfare Ministry source said, “Many foreigners have started to recognize cutting-edge Korean medical technology due to the Korean Wave,” adding, “Countries in the Middle East have paid keen interest, and thus the number of foreign patients will likely continue to grow.”

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Tags: medical tourism, Oriental medicine, gynaecology, orthopaedics, South Korea, oncology, cardiology, plastic surgery, medical services, international patients, neurology

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