As healthcare costs rise around the world, and patients grow more frustrated with limited access to quality insurance, large numbers of people are traveling overseas for affordable, cutting-edge medical services.
Asia is a hot spot for this trend, as several countries in the region, such as Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and India, work to become medical tourism destinations with special plans and strategies. In the face of such major competitors, South Korea has boosted its efforts to be among the leaders.
According to a Ministry of Health and Welfare report, the number of foreign patients visiting Korea has sharply increased. Korea treated 27,480 foreign patients in 2008 and the number more than doubled in 2009 to 60,201. In 2010, 81,789 patients from abroad received medical treatment in South Korea, 36% more than a year earlier. As a result, the country is on the rise in terms of medical tourism.
With its aim to become a 'Medical Tourism Hub' in Northeast Asia, Jeju, which is well known for its beautiful and clean natural environment, is transforming itself into a medical destination for foreign patients with the establishment of Jeju Healthcare Town. The project operator, Jeju Free International City Development Center (JDC), has set aside a 1,539,013m² site in Seogwipo to build Jeju Healthcare Town. The planned investment scale of the project, expected to be completed by 2015, is approximately USD 830 million.
With the concept of 'Health and Relaxation' designed to take advantage of Jeju's beautiful natural environment, Jeju Healthcare Town is divided into three areas - Wellness Park, a medical relaxation complex for beauty, preventive care, health and relaxation; Medical Park, a high-tech medical complex for various high-quality specialized treatment services; and R&D Park, a medical R&D complex.
Wellness Park will provide health-improvement services such as medical check-ups, beauty treatments, oriental medicine, and different types of lodging facilities such as Thalasso Resortel (a luxurious recreational resort with therapy, beauty and spa facilities) and Meditation Garden and Condominium.
To attract patients from other countries, Medical Park will provide specialized medical treatments for health problems such as cancer, heart and vascular disease, and spine problems. There will also be a Retirement Community with advanced medical facilities and a Long-Term Care Town to meet the demand for long-term care for seniors and chronically ill patients.
With the goal of becoming a mecca for medical research, as well as medical tourism, based on Jeju's natural resources, R&D Park will focus on medical research such as geriatrics practices, aging treatments and geriatrics health.
There are three factors pointing to success for Jeju Healthcare Town. First of all, geographically, Jeju Island is located off the south coast of Korea, between China and Japan. Eighteen cities with populations of more than 5 million are within just two hours flight time of Jeju Island. This geographic advantage will attract overseas patients who want to pursue tourism as well as medical treatment. Second, Jeju offers an unspoiled natural environment that competing medical destinations do not have. Jeju Island is traditionally well-known as an attractive tourism destination for its beautiful landscape and clean environment. Therefore, medical tourists, and their friends and family members, can enjoy Jeju while they receive medical treatment. Last, but not least, Korea offers state-of-the-art technology including surgery, diagnostics and cancer treatment. The high standard of Korean hospitals' technology is already well-known among Asian countries.
According to the Korea Tourism Organization, the number of visitors to Korea for medical treatment will increase significantly, as it aims to attract 300,000 overseas patients by 2015. The efforts of Jeju and other cities in Korea are showing signs of success in this area, meaning that Korea has the potential to become a hub for medical tourism.
•1. About JDC
Jeju Free International City Development Center (JDC) is a special corporation that is pursuing Jeju Free International City development projects under the Korean government's Special Act on Jeju Free International City. It intends to establish a global city on Jeju Island, focused on tourism, education, shopping, healthcare and medical treatment. Jeju is located at the center of Northeast Asia and has well-developed infrastructure including an international airport and seaports.
•2. Six Core Projects of JDC
§ Jeju Global Education City
English-specialized education city including foreign educational institutions, schools and English education center
§ Jeju Healthcare Town
A global healthcare complex including rehabilitation and alternative medical centers, water parks, hospitals, long-term care facilities and medical research centers
§ Jeju Science Park
A science park and research center focusing on IT and high-technology manufacturing, bioengineering and natural sciences
§ Resort-type Residential Complex
A world-class resort complex integrating residential, leisure and medical functions
§ Myths and History Theme Park
A mega theme park embracing a wide range of cultures and legends of countries across the globe
§ Seogwipo Tourism Port
An international marine tourism attraction
- 3. Jeju Healthcare Town
One-stop solution for medical examination, integrated medical treatment and rehabilitation
§ Location:Seogwipo, Jeju
§ Period of project: 2008 ~ 2015
§ Major facilities:
Wellness Park: Medical and recreational complex specializing in health care and relaxation including healthcare centers, medical check-up center, resort and a water park
MedicalPark: Medical complex providing high-tech medical services including specialized hospital and long-term care facilities
R&DPark: Medical research complex including rehabilitation, anti-aging, bio and drug research centers