Discounted taxes to promote cosmetic surgery tourism


An outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome hurt the economy. MERS led to more than a 40 % drop in the number of tourists visiting South Korea in June. Visitors from Taiwan and Hong Kong fell the most, by 76% and 75% from a year earlier.

South Korea is the cosmetic surgery capital of the world so officials are hoping the tax break will bring in more tourists and boost the economy, although a weaker yuan and struggling Chinese economy may hit numbers of Chinese visitors. Kim Soo Woong at the Korea Health Industry Development Institute warns, "The number of medical tourists may fall if the yuan falls further, as visitors from Russia and Mongolia dropped when the rouble declined.”

Cosmetic surgery is the bedrock of the country’s medical tourism with foreign cosmetic surgery recipients more than doubling between 2011 and 2014 from 122,000 to 267,000, but the market has become increasingly unregulated and some unsuspecting tourists have been scammed or taken to unlicensed operators.

To boost medical tourism, the ministry will seek to dispel the bad image of the Korean medical environment by improving issues identified during the recent Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak.



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