Unlike its neighbor to the north, South Korea is perceived around the world as a gentle and fun-loving country. Many tourists from around the world travel to this country to experience its beautiful tourist spots, delicious cuisine, and very rich culture.

Recently, South Korea medical tourism has also grown to be one of the most popular in Asia, because of their excellent-quality healthcare services and state-of-the-art facilities.

Advanced treatments for various spinal problems, other orthopedic problems, dental issues, organ transplantation, cancer treatments, cyberknife surgery in Korea, etc. have made this East Asian Country a hit among medical tourists from many western countries.

Some Facts about South Korea

  • It is officially known as The Republic of South Korea.
  • The South Korean government is democratic, with executive, judicial, and legislative branches.
  • Neighbouring countries include Japan (East), North Korea (North) and The People’s Republic of China (West).
  • Climate in South Korea can range from very warm to cold, depending on time of the year. Summers can go up to above 30° centigrade, while in winter seasons the temperature can go below .
  • The population is estimated at around 50 million people.
  • South Korea has the 4th largest economy in Asia, with large businesses in electronics, robotics, petrochemicals, ships, and machinery.
  • Seoul is the capital of the country, and is the seat of most key players in the South Korean medical tourism industry.
  • Other big cities in South Korea (based on population) are Busan, Incheon, and Daegu

Healthcare in Korea

South Korea’s healthcare systems are among the best in Asia. The country’s general health office is called the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

This office works with the government and other health agencies in the country in making and enforcing policies regarding public health and safety.

Public and private employees are covered by healthcare insurance, as mandated by the government, and many hospitals continually update their systems and facilities – a big draw for medical tourists who go to South Korea.

The office of Ministry of Health and Welfare of South Korea is responsible for finding ways to enhance their quality of life, fostering health among children and adults, giving long-term care insurance for the elderly, and enforcing preventive healthcare and treatment programs.

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Green South Korea

Environmental health is also one of this country’s continuing focuses, addressing issues like climate change, water pollution, and deforestation.

In 2008, South Korean President Lee Myung Myung-bak announced the country’s vision for development “Low Carbon, Green Growth” – a drive that aims to use “green” technologies and industries.

The technologies and industries that enhance efficiency in the use of its natural resources, while continually minimizing the hazards they pose to the environment.

South Korea has invested a lot of money in this aggressive drive, ensuring that the country does its part to conserve natural resources.

They have taken huge steps to significantly cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, invested in renewable energy sources, and started to encourage the building of energy-efficient homes.

South Korea Tourism

Even before the advent of South Korea’s bustling medical tourism business, it had already been a constant choice for tourists from neighboring Asian countries, North America, and Europe.

Below are some of the most popular tourist spots in South Korea, frequented by tourists:

Famous Tourist Spots and Festivals in South Korea

South Korea boasts of its natural beauty and man-made wonders:

  • Historical sites and palaces in Seoul, Buyeo and Gyeongju
  • Mountain peaks of Seorak-san and Jiri-san
  • Danyang and Hwanseongul Caves
  • Haeundae and Mallipo beaches

Additionally, thousands of medical tourists flock to South Korea for their famous festivals:

  • Yeongdeok Snow Crab Festival (February to March) – Partake of their famous snow crabs which historically were precious gifts specially presented to the king.
  • Jindo Sea-Parting Festival (March) – In Jindo, the seas part once a year, exposing a 2.5 kilometer road, around 50 meters wide, and visitors are able to walk from the mainland to a nearby island.
  • Lotus Lantern Festival (May) – One of Seoul’s most popular festivals, this commemorates the birth of Buddha. Events include lighting the “Jangeomdeung” (Grand Light) in Seoul Plaza and the lantern exhibitions and parade around the city. Visitors can also get the chance to participate in making their own lotus-shaped lanterns.
  • Boryeung Mud Festival (July) – Taking place in the beaches of Daecheon, this festival perhaps attracts more international tourists than any other festival in the country. Boryeong mud is famous for its therapeutic benefits, and people engage in activities like mud wrestling, mud sliding, and swimming in the huge mud mega tub. The party continues during night time when parties and pyrotechnic displays also take place.
  • Incheon Ceramic Festival (October) – With over a thousand years of historic ceramic arts industry, Incheon holds this festival to show off their beautiful works of art.

South Korean Cuisine

Korean cuisine largely comprises of rice, noodles, various vegetables, tofu and many types of meats.

Steam-cooked short-grain rice are usually served along with a vast variety of side dishes to please you palate. Kimchi, the popular Korean salad, is usually served at every meal.

Travelling to South Korea

Average flight duration from main cities around the world to Incheon International Airport, South Korea:

  • From Tokyo, Japan – 2 hours
  • From New York, US – 14 hours
  • From Toronto, Canada – 13 hours
  • From London, England – 11 hours
  • From Sydney, Australia – 10 hours
  • From Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – 23 hours
  • From Cape Town, South Africa – 17 hours

Medical Tourism in South Korea

Medical Visa

Medical tourists to South Korea have to be invited to receive medical services by registered health providers or medical tourism agencies.

An international patient can stay in the country for up to 180 days, depending on the nature of the medical procedure to be done. The patient has to submit the following documents to his local South Korean embassy or consulate:

  • Passport
  • Visa Application
  • 3×4 Photos
  • Proof of medical treatment requirement from the health provider
  • Financial documents as proof of the patient’s ability to pay for his expenses
  • A copy of the registration certificate of the healthcare provider or the medical tourism agency

People from some countries like the US do not have to have a visa. A US passport is enough to enter Korea for up to 90 days of stay in the country. US citizens are only required to get a visa if they have to be there for more than that period.

For more information about requirements to enter Korea, international patients to South Korea should inquire at their local South Korean embassy or consulate to be certain.

South Korean Currency

South Korea’s official currency is the South Korean Won. Depending on the fluctuating exchange rates, a US dollar can be approximately worth 1,100 SK Won.

South Korea’s Medical Facilities and Equipment

In 2004, the South Korean government started to implement the Hospital Evaluation Program as described by the Korean Medical Service Act. This includes the assessment of hospitals with more than 300 beds every 3 years.

This is done by collecting information through questionnaires, telephone surveys that focus on patient satisfaction and hospital management, and onsite inspection.

  • All medical institutions and facilitators in the country who are interested to attract medical tourists to South Korea have to register and comply with specific requirements (Article 27.2 of the country’s Medical Service Act).
  • In order to register, a medical specialist per department is required to monitor and ensure the quality of healthcare they provide.
  • State-of-the-art equipment and cutting edge devices are used in the country’s hospitals, which is no surprise for a popularly technology-savvy country.
  • As per the Korea Healthcare Industry Report of 2009, Korea is #3 in the world for the number of CT scan machines per million of population, following only Japan and the US.
  • This is the same ranking for MRI machines, where South Korea is third to Japan and the US, and ahead of huge European countries like Germany, UK, and France. You may also check South Korea’s health profile as of 2008, as given by the World Health Organization.
  • Most hospitals involved in South Korean medical tourism maintain an international patients department that employs English speaking staff especially hired to take care of medical tourists’ needs.

Qualifications of Medical Doctors in South Korea

Patients going to South Korea for medical tourism are treated by doctors who have international accreditation.

To facilitate lifelong education and training, all Korean Medical Association (KMA) members employed at medical facilities are required to complete at least 12 credits of training yearly, ranging from workshops, online training, lectures, publications, symposiums, and conferences.

Tips for South Korea Medical Tourists

  • The most important rule is to research the qualifications of all parties a patient is interested to work with, including the hospital, doctor, and medical tourism agency.
  • Be aware of the weather and climate by looking up forecasted conditions for your scheduled trip so you can pack clothing as needed.
  • Inquire from the nearest South Korean embassy or consulate about the latest updates regarding requirements to enter South Korea.
  • Take advantage of the other benefits of going to South Korea as a medical tourist: look up the festivals, restaurants, cultural sites, mountains, and beaches you would like to explore – then schedule your trip accordingly. Just make sure to consult the doctor about what activities you want to do, so he can advise you on the things you may or may not be allowed to do before and after your medical visits to the hospital.
  • Coordinate with the hospital or medical tourism agency for the itinerary you want, as they will be able to help you out with arranging side trips to tourist spots before, in between, or after hospital visits when possible.
  • Medical tourism agencies are able to provide packages with hotels and transportation services during your stay, and most are available for discounted rates.
  • The success of medical tourism in South Korea is mainly due to the low costs of excellent-quality medical procedures and services. However, ensure that you are getting the best rates by getting feedback from more than one hospital and doctor if available. For this, working with a reputable medical tourism agency is best, as they will be able to give you options that will work best with your needs.

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