South Korea

Seoul skyline

After years of postwar and governmental strife, Korea launched one of the planet’s fastest growing economies—now Asia’s fourth largest behind China, India and Japan—and the eleventh largest in the world.

Korea is also one of the world’s most technologically and scientifically advanced countries; it’s the only one in the world with nationwide 100 Mbit/s broadband Internet access and full HDTV broadcasting. Ninety percent of all Korean homes are connected to high-speed broadband Internet. A bullet train network zips travelers around the country at speeds exceeding 220 kilometers (130 miles) an hour. Hyundai, Samsung, LG and Kia are located here, a reminder of Korea’s formidable ability to compete in major industry sectors—most recently healthcare.

Korea and Medical Tourism

Korea’s star as a health travel destination has risen rapidly rising over the past two decades. Korea boasts more than 25 modern international hospitals, including Asan Medical Center, established by the founder of Hyundai and one of the world’s largest clinical campuses, with more than 3000 beds. Thirty South Korean hospitals and clinics are now JCI-accredited, more than any other nation in North Asia.

Korea’s foray into medical tourism began with service to Japanese patients, despite a sometimes uneasy political relationship between the two countries. Patients flock from Japan to take advantage of the huge cost savings and excellent care Korea has to offer. Korea also receives thousands of patients annually from Eastern Russia.

Over the past ten years, the Korean government has initiated a set of measures to promote medical tourism by aiding hospitals in their marketing and by easing regulations. The government is also pushing to simplify the process of issuing visas for overseas patients, especially those from Asian nations.

While South Korea has sunk millions into promoting medical tourism worldwide, language and culture barriers persist, particularly for the English-speaking patient. Nearby Russia and Japan remain Korea's largest source of inbound patient flow.

Herbal to High-Tech: A Broad Offering of Care

While Korea’s healthcare has become regrettably synonymous with “K-pop” cosmetic surgery, Korea’s hospitals and clinics boast a wide range of specialties and procedures, notably spinal disorders and cancer. Moreover, Korean specialty hospital and clinics are more likely to embrace established non-Western strategies, such as herbal treatments and acupuncture, integrated with allopathic care. Patients who seek alternative methods or do not wish to so quickly go under the knife will appreciate Korea’s broader medical perspectives and practices.

The Korean penchant for technology is revealed throughout its hospitals, where most are fully digitized and electronic health records are the rule. Visitors can even watch their granny’s colonoscopy on a television monitor in the hospital lobby (optional!).

Preventive care is big here as well, with executive medical travelers seeking out deals on inexpensive comprehensive screenings that include dental, audio, vision and MRI’s including the usual blood and heart work. On the southern coast, Busan is one of Asia’s seashore hot spots, where medical travelers flock to Hanyang University Medical Center for its low-cost comprehensive health screenings.

Medical travelers who react adversely to the heat and humidity of India or Southeast Asia will find Korea’s northern mountainous climate more to their liking. Korea Airlines offers non-stops from major North American, European and Australian cities at a manageable 8-14 hours.

South Korea at a Glance

Korea: A Leader in High-Tech Medical Procedures

Cities in Country:
Seoul, Gyeonggi-Do, Incheon

Time Zones:
GMT +9

Country Dialing Code:
+82

Electricity:
110V and 220V, plug types A and B

Currency:
Korean Won (KRW)

Recommended Immunizations:
Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid booster

Languages:
Korean, English spoken my many health professionals

Standards and Accreditation:

Last updated on 20 February 2017