South Korea is rapidly making a name for itself as an emerging international medical tourism destination. Its doctors pride themselves on high quality and affordable services, fast and efficient diagnostics, advanced medical technologies, and cutting-edge digital infrastructure. Home to leading hospitals such as Asan Medical Center, Samsung Medical Center and an array of private medical practices offering cosmetic treatments, South Korea provides plenty of choice to the international medical tourist.
Emerging Medical Tourism Hub
South Korean hospitals are known for their competence in managing the treatment of complex diseases and carrying out complicated procedures. Their clinical outcomes rank amongst the highest globally for cancers, spinal disorders, cardiovascular diseases, joint replacements, and transplants. They are known to have some of the world’s highest survival rates for chronic diseases such as cancer.
In cosmetic and aesthetic treatments, the country has an excellent reputation for its surgical skills and now claims the third-largest cosmetic surgery market globally. South Korean dentistry is also recognized at the international level, and patients are flocking from all over Europe, America, the Gulf states, and the rest of Asia to have medical procedures performed there.
South Korea is a clean, organized, safe, and beautiful country, with ease of access and assistance with travel arrangements, high-quality medical care, and some of the most advanced facilities and equipment available today. In general, there is a welcoming approach to medical tourism. Several clinics offer multilingual staff, with English, Arabic and Chinese languages being widely available at leading clinics.
The government strictly regulates medical facilities, and they are managed to the highest standards, with a strong passion for quality, safety, and service. It is essential also to note that all hospitals in South Korea are non-profit.
Compared to Western European countries and the USA, South Korea is a more cost-effective country for international standard medical and surgical procedures. International patients who have cosmetic procedures performed at a government registered Special Medical Institution, and leave the country within three months of the surgery date, can get a 10% VAT refund on departure.
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Plastic Surgery in South Korea
Cosmetic surgery was first approved by the Supreme Court of South Korea as a medical speciality in 1974. Since then, it has become ingrained in the fabric of South Korean culture. The South Korean ‘baby face’ appearance is much sought after, but in recent years the trend has turned towards more international norms of beauty. Many digital applications are available during the clinic experience to test out different looks. Some 14% of all South Korean women have had cosmetic surgery, increasing to 30% for those in their twenties. Feeling beautiful is generally equated to feeling more self-confident, and the trend is taking hold amongst men, too, as an increasing number opt to get a ‘K-beauty fix.’
South Korea has the highest number of plastic surgeries per head of population of all the 25 member nations of ISAPS. Foreign patients have also been streaming to South Korea for cosmetic treatments, and the number of such visitors is increasing at about 28-42% per annum. South Korea holds 25% of the world plastic surgery market and is now the third-largest provider of such surgery in the world after the USA and Brazil.
The quest for beauty is part of a social drive for education and self-improvement. Older patients mostly opt for smoothing out wrinkles and having face-lifts. The country’s high demand for these treatments means that the medical professionals have vast experience and state-of-the-art medical technology and facilities, excellent service standards, and a culture of quality.
K-pop, K-fashion, and K-beauty have spread rapidly due to Korean TV and entertainment shows’ popularity. These cultural crossovers also expose international audiences to K-beauty treatments and the results of their exceptionally natural-looking cosmetic surgeries.
Best Doctors in South Korea
Accessing the best doctors is South Korea is about to get easier, as we will soon be launching our medical travel marketplace, where patients will be able to access leading healthcare providers in South Korea.
At the moment mandatory quarantine for two weeks in South Korea can cost up to $10,000, which is likely to discourage international patients from traveling to South Korea. However, there are calls being made by health industry leaders to encourage the Korean government to open up access to medical treatment for vaccinated visitors.
South Korea can easily be reached from other major cities around the world, and is a destination we are watching closely for a rebound in medical tourism after the pandemic.