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South-east Asia's medical tourists wanted by South Korea
Rosa Ocampo, Manila, February 23, 2015

SOUTH Korea is plugging medical tourism in its new tourism offensive throughout Asia, hoping to leverage the popularity of K-pop and the relative affordability of its services.  


The Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) last Friday went on a marketing sortie to the Philippines for the first time, bringing a host of medical tourism suppliers.


One supplier, Youngjin Kwon, senior researcher, Daegu Medical Tourism Promotion Institute, said one of KTO’s aims in visiting Manila is to network and find a local travel agency partner.


“We have no partner agency in the Philippines although we do in other countries. We don’t have that many Filipino clients yet but we do get a lot of foreigners, including those from China, Canada, Vietnam and Cambodia,” she said.


KTO’s ramped-up approach towards in this segment can be seen through the recent launch of and its new slogan for medical tourism: Let’s talk beauty and fun: Trust Korea, the new heart of medical tourism in Asia.


“We want to attract more people in Asia and we are doing this through the new medical tourism website, marketing and promotions, leveraging the popularity of K-pop culture,” said Jiwan Kweon, English manager, The Alliance of Korea Medical Tourism, which has 78 hospitals and 38 travel agencies as members.


She also observed that medical costs in South Korea, while higher than Thailand’s, are slightly lower than Singapore’s. According to KTO, the same service costing US$100 in South Korea would be priced US$75 in Thailand, US$105 in Singapore, US$149 in Japan and US$338 in the US.


KTO statistics show that medical tourism grew at an annual rate of 50.6 per cent to welcome 211,218 arrivals in 2013. South Korea aims to have a million medical tourists by 2020. Major markets are China, the US, Russia and Japan, while South-east Asia takes up only 4.8 per cent of market share.


KTO has conducted similar showcases in Russia, Vietnam, China and Japan, and will visit Indonesia and Malaysia in March.

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