Since the government allowed hospitals to promote themselves to draw foreign patients in 2009, the total cumulative number of foreigners who visited domestic hospitals for treatment has surpassed 1 million. The number of jobs created through this is also in excess of 30,000. The Ministry of Health and Welfare said on May 28 that the number of foreign patients who were treated in Korea was 266,500 last year and is more than 100,000 this year to date. For the past six years, the number has exceeded the 1-million level.
In order to encourage medical tourism, the government revised the healthcare laws in May 2009 and permitted hospitals to put out ads for patients from overseas. Still, hospital advertising for domestic patients is banned. In the first year of deregulation, the foreign patient number was 60,000, which rose an annual rate of 34.7 percent. The number of nationalities of patients visiting Korea has also increased to 191 last year from 141 in 2009.
By nationality of patients visiting Korea last year, the Chinese took the largest portion of 29 percent, or 78,000. It was then followed by the United States (13%), Russia (12%), and Japan (5%). By area of specialty, internal medicine took the highest number with 79,000 patients (29.5%), with plastic surgery (14%) and health check-up (13%) following thereafter.
The amount of money spent by the medical tourists has also increased for the past six year. The per-capita treatment cost for foreign patients was 2.08 million won last year, breaking the 2-million-won level for the first time, up 11.8 percent from 2013. The total treatment cost spent by foreigners last year was 556.9 billion won, with the cumulative spending for the six years reaching 1.5 trillion won.
Source: Korea Economic Daily