Medical tourism debate in South Korea


The Seoul International Medical Tourism Congress (SIMTC) in September gave local hospitals the chance to reflect on medical tourism's expansion in Korea, discuss better business practices, and create connections with hospitals across the globe, including India, China, the USA, and Russia. Korea’s international medical tourism is seeing a 30 percent increase in overseas patients despite the ongoing global recession and the H1N1 influenza.

Serious help from government and other national bodies has made all the difference, and is a lesson to countries that think that inbound medical tourism can increase without such help.
Kuwait's Ministry of Health is considering sending patients to South Korean hospitals for treatment. Speaking after a tour of South Korean medical facilities, ministry official Qais Al-Dowairy said that hospitals in the country were advanced and included state-of-the-art equipment, as well as highly skilled staff.
South Korea is aiming to become the number one destination for patients from oil-rich Arabian Gulf states.  277 South Korean hospitals and clinics have expressed interest in treating Kuwaiti patients in Korea. The number of foreign patients receiving treatment in South Korea is expected to reach nearly 50,000 by the end of 2009, compared to 40,000 in 2008, earning US$48 million.

The South Korean government has declared medical tourism as a next-generation growth engine. Local governments plan to build health care clusters for medical tourism to attract foreign patients. Daegu has launched Medi Citi as its own brand, arranging for 40 hospitals to prepare English, Japanese and Chinese brochures, opening websites in foreign languages and participating in international conferences and exhibitions. Osong and Daegu are both building medical complexes. Busan is a popular medical tourism destination among the Japanese for weekend cosmetic surgery. The local government runs a call center for translation services for foreign patients. Gangwon-do seeks to develop medical tourism in Gangwon province, targeting of 10,000 foreign patients.

The Jeju Healthcare Town is a joint project of the South Korean Government and the private sector. Jeju hopes to attract medical travellers to Jeju Island’s clean and beautiful natural environment with cutting-edge health care. Jeju Healthcare Town will hold a groundbreaking ceremony around the year's end and plans to open in early 2011. Projects in The Wellness Park, a medical relaxation complex for beauty, prevention, health and relaxation will open in 2011 and 2012.Those in The Medical Park, a high-tech medical complex for various high-quality specialized treatments; will open in 2013 and 2014.International companies wanting to invest will get local tax exemption, housing, special employment benefits for newly hired employees, corporate tax incentives, registration tax incentives, and property tax incentives for customs duties.



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