South Korea targets Filipinos, Cambodians and Russians


South Korea gets many tourists from Cambodia, Russia and the Philippines, and is now seeking ways to attract many more medical tourists from these countries.

The 24,000 Cambodians who visited South Korea during 2011 included about 100 people going for medical services, most of them high-ranking Cambodian government officials, according to Charm Lee of the Korea Tourism Organization. Lee says that medical care in Korea is less expensive than that in Singapore but more expensive than in Thailand.

Yeongcheon Son Hospital in Busan does get Cambodians seeking treatment and plans to open a clinic in Cambodia as soon as it can find a Cambodian doctor partner for the venture. Ang Kim Eang of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents says increasing numbers of Cambodian people are starting to be able to afford medical treatment in Korea, “People who have new cars should be able to afford medical treatment in Korea.”

South Korea has set up its first tourism office in the Philippines aiming to target high- and middle-income Filipinos to become medical tourists in Korea. Charm Lee of the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) says the office will not only promote tourism in Korea but will also help Philippine travel agencies, tour operators and airlines in getting Filipino travelers to Korea by promoting would promote tour packages at reasonable prices for Filipinos, “KTO is targeting high-income as well as middle-class Filipino citizens.”

There were some 337,000 Filipino tourists in Korea in 2011 and the KTO aims to accelerate the trend. Filipinos account for 3.4 % of the total number of 9.8 million foreign visitors in Korea in 2011. Lee explains why Filipinos may want to go to Korea for medical treatment, “Korea’s medical services are at a high level not only for Western medicine but also for traditional Korean medicine. We are very strong on spinal and disc problems and have very high success rate with these specialist treatment. Korean medical tourism offers high quality healthcare at a competitive price. The level of our service and technology is very high but the price is low compared to Europe. We are a bit more expensive than Thailand but our environment is much better and safer.”

The number of medical tourists seeking services in Korea has risen over the years. The number in 2007 was a low 7,900 but jumped to 60,201 in 2009, and climbed further to 81,789 in 2010 and 110,000 in 2011.

Russia is potentially a big market with visitors surging from 1,758 in 2009 to 5,089 in 2010 and 9,000 in 2011. 30,000 from Vladivostok go abroad every year for medical treatment. Three years ago, only a few hundred went from Vladivostok to Korea, but in 2011 there were 9000. Three years ago, Korea set up a medical consulting office in Russia, staffed by doctors.

Advanced Healthcare Partners has partnered with Henghao Consulting to form a medical tourism company with a focus on cardiovascular surgery. It targets patients from China and Russia to travel to Konkuk University Medical Center in Seoul, South Korea. The hospital uses heart valve replacement techniques and equipment developed there by Dr. Meong-Gun Song, where he has performed more than 1300 surgeries using the techniques. AHP has offices in Hong Kong, and in Vladivostok, Russia.



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