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South Korea, a Medical Tourism Leader Pioneering the Future of Medicine  

Medical Tourism

South Korea ("Korea") is an IT leader that leads the digital era in the 21st century. At the same time, the country has set off hallyu (Korean wave) across all industries including fashion, food and content like K-pop and K-drama, just to name a few. What's more, Korea also emerged as a medical tourism powerhouse and has created medical hallyu, showing its strong capacity to lead the medical industry as well. With state-of-the-art medical equipment, smart IT-based medical technologies, smart hospitals and innovative treatments, Korea has become a "cradle of doctors.”  

Home of Cutting-Edge Medical Treatments

Korea has the world’s highest cancer survival rate thanks to innovative cancer treatment technology. Korea is the world-renowned leader in cancer treatment. The five-year survival rate of stomach cancer patients is 77% in Korea, which is two or three times higher than that of the US (32.4%) and UK (21.6%) Three of the top 20 global hospitals for cancer treatment are based in Korea. Also, hospitals, universities and various research institutes in the country are dedicated to new medical technologies used for cancer treatment.  

Many foreign patients who come to Korea receive robotic surgeries to treat various cancers, including colorectal cancer and stomach cancer. Plus, approximately 1,000 doctors around the world apply for medical training in Korea to learn the country's integrated cancer treatment systems, including integrated precision medicine platforms that leverage clinical data on cancer patients, in addition to robotic surgeries.

Korean cancer centers provide one-stop services supporting prevention, testing, treatment, rehabilitation, and follow-up management. University hospitals and general hospitals as well as 12 government-designated cancer centers offer the world’s best-in-class cancer treatments. In addition, patients can receive the same one-stop service for major internal diseases in addition to cancer treatment.

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.  

Building a Global Medical Tourism Hub

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. Korea also offers these cutting-edge treatments at affordable rates. For instance, in comparison to the United States ($40,364), the cost of a hip replacement in South Korea is nearly 30 percent cheaper at $25,000. In addition, while knee replacement costs $35,000 and face lift costs about $11,000 in the United States, these procedures can be done at $20,000 and $6,000 respectively in Korea.

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, with more than 600,000 international patients traveling to Korea in 2023 for medical care. Korea has a well-established medical tourism industry with world class health facilities with dedicated international patient centers. Korea has professional medical tourism agencies registered with the Ministry of Health and Welfare that offer reliable medical tour services, ranging from airport pickups to hospitalizations, treatments, surgeries, and tours.

The Korean government also runs an international medical tour coordinator license program to improve patient experience for medical tourists. Korea Tourism Organization is continuously working with global partners, particularly the Medical Tourism Association (MTA) to expand the medical tourism industry, attract more health payers, and provide world-class medical care to medical tourists around the world.  

About Korea Tourism Organization (KTO)

Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) is an organization of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST). It is commissioned to promote the country's tourism industry. The KTO was established in 1962 as a government-invested corporation responsible for the South Korean tourism industry according to the International Tourism Corporation Act.  The organization promotes Korea as a tourist destination to attract foreign tourists. Starting in the 1980s, domestic tourism promotion also became a function of the KTO. Inbound visitors totaled over 17 million in 2019 (17,502,756 visitors) and the tourism industry is one of the greatest contributors to the Korean economy.


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