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Destination Spotlight

Korea: Turning the Focus to an Emerging Global Leader in Medical Tourism

Destination Spotlight

Medical travel has taken a whole new dimension in the last year, with more destinations remodeling themselves to meet the pent-up medical demands of millions of international patients around the world. With the rising cost of healthcare in the U.S., many Americans are turning the focus to destinations that offer top-notch healthcare services at a fraction of the cost in the U.S.

South Korea is in the spotlight, as many American health payers are paying attention to Korea’s advances in medicine and robust medical travel opportunities. South Korea has been a leading player in the medical tourism industry over the last decade, with more than 400,000 foreign patients yearly visiting the country for medical treatment. As health payers seeking alternative to expensive U.S. healthcare began to think outside the box for opportunities beyond the border, they began to uncover the goldmine that is Korea’s medical system.

With phenomenal advances and strides in the fields of cancer treatment, orthopedic surgery, and transplant surgery, Korea is overtaking most countries to become a global brand in these specialties.

South Korea has risen to become number 5 in top destinations for cancer treatment, with three of the top 20 hospitals for cancer treatment based in Korea. South Korea boasts Centers of Excellence in oncology that offer care comparable – and even superior – to hospitals in the United States. A recent report has demonstrated that five-year survival rate for stomach cancer is 77% in Korea, which is more than two times higher than in the U.S., at 32.4%. South Korea also has some of the best orthopedic centers in the world, ranking fifth globally in the number of spine disease research papers and record high success rates for complex orthopedic procedures.

Four of the top 30 hospitals for orthopedic treatments are based in Korea, which is also home to the top nine global orthopedic centers in the world. Admittedly, Korea is pushing the frontiers of medicine and healthcare, delivering the best care available across several specialties. What’s more, Korea is rebranding medical travel, establishing global medical travel departments across several of its top medical centers and clinics to meet the global pent-up demand for care.

This has translated to a steady inflow of medical tourists in the last decade, with over 497,464 foreign patients visiting Korea before the pandemic in 2019. Korea is now experiencing a massive shift in medical travel as more health consumers and buyers around the world are getting attracted to its medical brand. Teaming up with Global Healthcare Resources in the last few years, the Korean Tourism Organization has opened its doors to the large global medical travel market of payers and buyers, and also build more robust partnerships with centers of excellence around the world to pool resources, education, and expertise.

It is no doubt that Korea is poised to become a major player in the medical travel scene with key shifts and developments to disrupt the ecosystem. With GHA providing the needed accreditation, resources, and partnerships, Korea is not only well positioned to meet the needs of patients requiring complex medical solutions but also help health payers save huge amounts of money while receiving top-rate care available in only a handful of destinations around the world.

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