Business of Well-being

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

Why Medical Tourism in South Korea?

South Korea (or simply Korea) is an IT leader that excels in the digital era of the 21st century. Simultaneously, the country has benefited from Hallyu (a Korean wave), an explosion in the global popularity of Korea across all industries, including fashion, food, and, entertainment such as K-pop and K-drama. Furthermore, Korea has emerged as a medical tourism powerhouse, setting off medical Hallyu, showing its strong capacity to be a global medical leader. With state-of-the-art medical equipment, smart IT-based medical technologies, smart hospitals, and innovative treatments, Korea has become a hotspot for doctors. Professional medical tour agencies registered with the Ministry of Health and Welfare provide reliable medical tour services, ranging from airport pickups to hospitalizations, treatments, surgeries, and tours. Plus, the Korean government runs an international medical tour coordinator license program to raise the satisfaction levels of medical tourists.

The biggest advantage of Korean medical tours is the convergence of medical science and IT. Korean general hospitals' transplantations, robotic surgeries, and endoscopic operations have best-in-class quality compared to other medical tourist destinations. In particular, Korea's cancer survival rate is more than double the average among OECD countries, thereby boasting a world-class standard.

Korea's world-class medical services can be verified by statistical analysis of medical data.
The rate of adoption of the electronic medical record (EMR) system by Korean medical institutions is among the highest globally. In an index that assesses robotic endoscopic surgery, medical equipment, diagnostic system, and medical systems, Korea ranks second worldwide, further establishing its position as a medical powerhouse.

Integrated Internal Medicine

Korea is considered an international leader in cancer treatment. Four out of the top 20 hospitals in the world for cancer treatment are based in Korea (including the fifth-ranked hospital). Additionally, 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 and stomach cancer. The survival rate of patients with major cancers in Korea is the highest globally 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%). Plus, approximately 1,000 doctors worldwide 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-shop services supporting prevention, testing, treatment, rehabilitation, and follow-up management. University hospitals, general hospitals, and 12 government-designated cancer centers offer the world’s best-in-class cancer treatments. Moreover, patients can receive similarly comprehensive services for other major internal diseases.

Plastic Surgery

With the Hallyu boom led by K-pop and K-drama worldwide, Korea is leading global beauty trends. For foreigners who aspire to K-beauty, getting plastic surgery in Korea has become a turning point in their lives, superseding a simple medical procedure.

Korea is a leader in the plastic surgery sector, with a share of 25% of the global beauty market. Korea's plastic surgery technology has become a global standard, with Korean plastic surgeons writing medical textbooks for the rest of the world on the subject. In particular, Korea's facial liposuction technology used to create a V-shaped facial line without reshaping the bones is unmatched. It’s no surprise that the country recorded the largest number of facial liposuction cases in the world. Furthermore, Korea offers a reliable medical environment for patients, such as cameras installed in operating rooms and the disclosure of the names of medical staff members who participate in the surgeries. In addition, differentiated services, including beauty classes and cultural programs for foreigners, are also offered.

Cosmetic surgery is divided into invasive surgery, which cuts or punctures the skin, and minimally-invasive or non-invasive surgery, which uses injections, laser, or ultrasonic waves. Minimally-invasive, or non-invasive surgery, which is more affordable and carries less risk of side effects, is increasingly popular amongst patients in their 20s and 30s who want instant yet natural-looking results.

Dermatology

Korean celebrities are known for their flawless and beautiful skin, so Korea's dermatology treatment and skincare know-how have garnered much attention. Dermatology clinics in Korea provide customized medical services through scientific skin diagnosis while offering total beauty care services from consultation and examination to operation and recovery.

Korea boasts the world-renowned stem cell technology, which has anti-aging and immunity-boosting effects. As skincare services demand from oversea patients grows,
the Korean government has launched a program whereby Korean health and medical practitioners can work abroad. With this, many doctors and specialists in aesthetic procedures and post-procedural management have entered international markets.

Dermatology treatment is primarily divided into dermal laser treatment and skin care treatment. Laser treatment is administered after a customized analysis of skin type. Thereafter, skincare treatment follows. Recently whitening, wrinkle care, filler injection for neck wrinkles, and skin regeneration treatments have been popular.

Physical Examination Center

Korea's physical examination system is becoming more prominent as the importance of prevention, early diagnosis, and timely treatment of severe diseases grows globally. Korea ranks first in terms of its EMR system adoption rate by medical institutions.  It offers a one-stop shop encompassing a full spectrum of services from examination to treatment. Korea provides rapid examination and precise reading through customized physical examinations and state-of-the-art medical equipment. Once a disease is discovered, patients are referred to specialized hospitals. All this helps the public live longer and healthier lives.

Korea is the only country that provides citizens with physical examinations throughout their life. According to the Global Health Security Index, Korea ranked fifth among 194 countries worldwide in terms of disease detection, leading the effort to prevent diseases. The rate of Korean hospitals that own magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) devices is more than double the OECD average, placing Korea fourth among OECD countries. Also, the country has a digital medical system whereby users can conveniently book physical examinations, answer questionnaires before the examination, and check the result with their mobile phones.


Physical examination programs are divided into basic, in-depth, and premium programs. Hospitals specialized in physical examinations have separate wards for locals, foreigners, and VIPs for stay-in examinations. These specialized physical examination programs are particularly preferred by foreign patients since they can receive top-level comprehensive physical examinations at a ward that is of five-star hotel quality and get one-on-one assistance from coordinators.

To learn more about medical tourism in South Korea, you can visit the following virtual booth that belongs to the KoreanTourism Organization (KTO).

You can also learn about the cost-saving potentials of medical tourism for employers for free at this year’s Healthcare Revolution conference. Check out KTO's sponsored session here.

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