As the NHS finds it more and more difficult to provide the care that people need and private health insurance becomes more and more expensive and unfordable now is the ideal time to consider medical treatment in South Korea and combine it with a stay in one of Asia’s undiscovered but most exciting destinations.
Hospitals in South Korea continually update their infrastructure, systems and facilities to ensure that they provide the best possible service and treatments to the local population making the healthcare system amongst the best in the world. This has led to a growing interest in medical tourism to South Korea and is attracting patients from around the globe. The government is now investing heavily in this sector in order to attract more medical tourists.
A huge range of assessments and treatments are available from dentistry to cosmetic surgery to high tech cancer treatments. There is also a fascinating mix of western and oriental medicine on offer, creating even more options for treatment. There are a number of centres in the major cities that have been created especially for the medical tourist, with multi-lingual staff and comprehensive services that include travel, accommodation and recuperation packages.
Korea’s Medical Tourism Growth
2015 International Patient Service Result Survey, Korea Health Industry Development Institute
Average life expectancy for Koreans
Koreans are healthy thanks to Advanced Medical Technology
Behind Korea’s Medical Tourism Growth
1. World’s Best Medical Technology
Unsurpassed competency in treatments for difficult diseases, such cancer, cardiovascular and spinal disorders, and complicated procedures such as transplants.
Five-Year Cancer Survival Rates: International Comparison
Source: National Cancer Information Centre
Highly Complex Surgical Procedures Statistics
Source: OECD Indicators (2014)
A pioneer in plastic/cosmetic surgery and dentistry.
In 2015, Korea was recognized as the third-largest market for plastic surgery in the world, next only to the United States and Brazil. The Korean plastic surgery market is estimated to be KRW 5 trillion inannual value, making up almost 25 percent of the entire global market value, estimated at KRW 21 trillion.
With 650,000 operations performed annually, Korea is ranked in the seventh place in terms of the absolute number of plastic surgery operations performed each year, as opposed to the United States where plastic surgery is most frequently performed (3,110,000 annually). When these numbers are converted into the per-population ratio, however, the rankings are reversed.
With 13.5 plastic surgery operations performed for every 1,000, Korea tops the rankings, followed by Greece (12.5 per 1,000), Italy (11.6 per 1,000), and the United States (9.9 per 1,000).
There is growing interest worldwide in tooth whitening, orthodontics, and double jaw (orthognathic) surgery.
Korea is famous worldwide for its topnotch cosmetic dentistry.
Korean cosmetic dentistry businesses are rapidly increasing their share of the global market, and already boast a 40-percent combined share of the Chinese market.
Sources: International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS), Korean Trends Total 2017
2. Excellent Medical Practitioners & Medical Facilities
Hospitals in Korea boast of excellent medical practitioners and facilities. The Korean government has a strict regulation over the hospitals to ensure the optimum medical services.
Medical Hardware (MRI and CT Machines and Hospital Beds) and Medical Practitioner (Doctors and Nurses) Statistics
All hospitals in Korea are nonprofit organizations and they put the safety and satisfaction of patients ahead of profits.
Number of Hospital Beds for Every 1,000 in OECD Member States
The OECD statistics count only hospitals, and do not reflect statistics concerning clinics, dental clinics, traditional herbal medicine clinics, and midwifery centres common in Korea.
The Number of Practicing Physicians
Source: OECD Indicators (2014)
3. Affordable Medical Costs
In Korea, patients can receive high quality of health care and treatments at affordable prices through cutting-edge hardware and infrastructure.
OECD-wide Comparison of Medical Insurance Costs (Unit: USD)
Sources: International Federation of Health Plans (2011) and KHIDI (2012)
Medical costs in Korea are only 20-30% of those in the United States or Japan while medical services are still on a similarly high level. The medical bills in Korea are even cheaper than those in China, and comparable to the rates charged by private clinics in Singapore.
4. Accessibility and Safety
As Korea is easily reached from major cities in Asia, North America and Europe, patients can enjoy a more comfortable journey to Korea.
The Korean government has the certification policy for hospitals receiving foreign patients to guarantee a high level of medical services for them.
Various support systems are available to foreign patients such as medical visa, medical translator or coordinator services, etc.
5. Traditional Medicine in Korea
Traditional medicine in Korea has its own treatments, hospitals and prescriptions that is comparable with western medicine. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized hanbang, or traditional Korean medicine, as valid medicine.
Traditional Korean medicine involves identifying the physical constitution of each patient, and finding the right (customized) care and prescription accordingly. Traditional Korean medicine also prefers more natural treatments, such as herbal medicines, acupuncture, and moxibustion, over artificial drug regimens of antibiotics and painkillers.
Medical Tour Packages
Suggested Tours for Medical Tourists
Visas for medical tourism (C-3-3, G-1-10)
1. Target group for visa issuance
Those wishing to be hospitalized at specialized medical clinics or rehabilitation facilities for treatment of diseases and disorders, or for recuperation purposes, and for cases requiring treatment periods of 91 days or longer. The patient and members of the patient’s immediate family, including patient’s spouse to help provide care and patient’s children (Duration of stay is one year; multiple-entry visa is effective for one year)
- C-3 (M): For cases where the period of treatment and travel is 90 days or less (Simple procedures, e.g., cosmetic procedures, including plastic surgery, etc.)
- G-1 (M): One year (i.e., long-term treatment and rehabilitation)
2. Where to apply
Embassies or consulates of the Republic of Korea
3. How to apply
Direct application :
Patient may apply for the visa at the consulate directly – documents to be submitted : visa issuance application, copy of passport, diagnosis document, document issued by a medical institution in Korea confirming appointment for treatment/recuperation, affidavit of financial support proving ability to procure funds to cover the cost of treatment and stay, other documents requested by the consulate (documents proving family relationship)
Agency application :
Medical institution or agency may apply for visa issuance certificate to the immigration office through online HUNET. The visa will be issued when the patient submits the certification to the consulate. – documents to be submitted : application for confirmation of visa issuance, copy of passport, 1 photo, documents issued by a medical institution confirming medical purpose of visit (documents proving family relationship)