In 2009, the South Korean government formally announced a concerted effort toward becoming a legitimate medical tourism destination. The country not only achieved its goal, but it is also now surpassing it. Already established as a medical destination for Asians, the country focused new marketing efforts to draw visitors from China, Japan and the United States. Visitors can find affordable services for orthopedic treatments, including advanced spinal treatments, organ transplants and cancer treatments. The country also offers various dental treatments as well as plastic surgery.
South Korea's natural assets set the stage for it to become a medical tourism destination. Known as the friendly and welcoming country of the two Koreas, tourism was already a booming industry. One example is Jeju Island, a natural beauty located off the south coast between China and Japan. Easily accessible, it is but one hour by air from Seoul, the capital of the Republic of Korea. The concept of medical tourism on Jeju Island is health combined with relaxation. State-of-the-art medical facilities are situated among the beautiful, natural landscapes and amid the exceptionally clean environment. Medical tourists are accompanied by family and friends who can enjoy sight-seeing and relaxation while the patients undergoes treatment and recuperation. The area also boasts wellness centers designed for preventive care and overall health benefits.
Busan has long been popular with Japanese tourists seeking aesthetic surgical procedures, including plastic surgery. With an on-site call center handling translation services for foreign patients, this area now also competes as a prime destination for international visitors seeking medical services. Located on the southeastern tip of the Korean peninsula, the city offers a combination of beautiful beaches and scenic mountain cliffs. An array of hot springs is an added attraction for therapeutic healing.
There are several factors that play into the success of South Korea as a viable medical tourism destination. Though the country's dedication to this goal sets the stage, it is the strategic steps it has taken that seal the credibility. In 2004, the Korean government began implementation of the Hospital Evaluation Program under the Korean Medical Service Act. The program includes an assessment of any 300-bed or larger hospital every three years. The information is compiled through surveys and questionnaires that focus on patient satisfaction. Additionally, on-site inspections are performed and hospital management is reviewed. Any medical facility wishing to attract medical tourists must register and comply with strict guidelines of the country's Medical Service Act. Most hospitals involved in the country's medical tourism program maintain a department specifically dedicated to its international patients. They also employ English-speaking staff to assist international visitors with their needs.
The quality of doctors is equally impressive. Each holds international accreditation. Those who are members of the Korean Medical Association are required to complete 12 credits of training each year in the form of lectures, symposiums, conferences, publications or training. Doctors in South Korea's medical tourism hospitals are using cutting edge technology and advanced, state-of-the-art equipment. The country ranks third in the world for number of CT scanners and MRI machines.