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Health Travel Growing at Over 30 Percent Yearly

Health Travel Growing at Over 30 Percent Yearly

Friday May 04, 2012

The number of foreign patients visiting Korea has been soaring at an annual rate of over 30 percent since 2009. The figure rose 35.9 percent from 60,201 in 2009 to 81,789 in 2010, and is estimated to have exceeded 110,000 last year, up 34.5 percent, according to the Korea Health Industry Development Institute.

The target for this year is 150,000 medical tourists, marking growth of 36 percent, it added.

American patients topped the list with 32.4 percent in 2010, followed by Chinese (19.4 percent), Japanese (16.8 percent) and Russians (7.7 percent). Foreign patients spent an average of W1.31 million per person on medical expenses here (US$1=W1,133).

"Attracting three to four patients with serious illnesses creates a comparable economic effect to exporting a Hyundai Sonata," the institute said.

People from Kazakhstan paid the highest medical bills, or W3.78 million on average, followed by Russians with W2.97 million and Mongolians with W2.58 million, as many of them came for expensive treatments for cardiovascular or other serious diseases.
Japanese patients spent the least amount of money, or W840,000 on average.

U.S. patients visited Korea largely to undergo medical check-ups or seek treatment from dentists, while most Chinese patients got treated by beauty therapists or plastic surgeons, and Russians sought cardiovascular or orthopedic surgeons.

Japanese mostly sought herbal and skin treatments. They accounted for 76 percent of the total number of foreign patients visiting Oriental medicine clinics, and 35 percent of those seeking dermatologists.

"Many Japanese want to receive simple treatments like acupuncture or skin care during their short visit" to Korea, said a director at the institute.

Meanwhile, Chinese patients, mostly women in their 20s or 30s, accounted for 66 percent of the total number of foreigners visiting plastic surgeons in Korea.

"Recently, an increasing number of older Chinese visitors have also been coming to get medical check-ups here as part of tour programs," the director said. "As Korea begins to be recognized for its advanced medical skills, the number of foreign patients with serious conditions is on the rise."

In the southern port city of Busan, Russian patients account for 35 percent of foreign patients visiting clinics. Many hail from the eastern region of Vladivostok and show symptoms of cardiovascular, hip or disk diseases, the institute said.

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Tags: medical tourists, skin treatments, serious illnesses, heart surgeries, South Korea, dentistry, plastic surgery, international patients

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