Busan’s Medical Tourism and the New You

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Though a relatively new player to the game, Korea has been making serious moves in the “Medical Tourism” field with the government tossing in generous support in this growing field of travel. From cosmetic surgery to hip replacements to major work on the ol’ ticker, the industry is attracting large numbers of people from around the world to its surgical shores.

In 2009, about 60,000 medical tourists travelled to Korea for treatment of some sort, compared with seven million tourists overall. As a whole, medical travellers spent $54 million during their visit, or about $900 per patient. And the numbers look to grow even higher this year, with Korea aiming for 80,000 medical tourist arrivals by the end of 2010. The government hopes that the number of medi-tourists will rise 16% per year, until reaching one million per annum by 2020.

When it comes to medical tourism, Americans make the most of Korea’s inexpensive services. They made up 45.7 percent followed by Japanese, Chinese, Mongolians and Russians, each with 5-7 percent in 2009.

Purely from the aspect of cost, it makes sense to combine your stay in Korea with medical treatment, whether it is elective surgery or something major. A heart replacement valve operation costs only 21 percent of the U.S. equivalent, which comes to about a $140,000 savings; and a hip replacement clocks in 38% lower, saving the patient about $26,000. With such dramatic price differences, there is more than enough in savings to cover airfare and a top hotel if you are visiting or a round at the bar if you are here working.

Korea has also made great advances in dentistry with the field’s highest technology for implanting procedures, teeth whitening, and gum care all at a reasonable cost when compared internationally.

A New You?

For those looking for elective surgery, be it a nose job, breast implants, laser scrub, liposuction or any of a variety of cosmetic surgery procedures, Korea is the spot. Over the past few years, the industry has set new standards in the field of “self improvement,” making it more and more attractive to those wishing to avoid high cost out-patient procedures back home.

That said, in surveys conducted by the medical community and the government, one of the few complaints about having any sort of procedure done in Korea, is a lack of English proficiency among nurses and staff. While the majority of Korean doctors speak English well, it leaves patients a little weary to seek treatment when there is insufficient communication before going under the knife or the laser.


J.O. Park, the guy to call when you are ready to make that move. Be it a hip replacement or cosmetic surgery. Park's company offers free liason services between you and doctors.

To address this problem, cottage industries have sprung up that seek to bridge the language gap and act as liaisons between international patients and medical facilities. One of those is medical tourism consulting firm, Medina, located here in Busan. Started by J.O. Park in 2009, Medina (www.medina.kr) offers free assistance to expats or tourists seeking treatment, while at the same time operating a consulting firm that advises hospitals and clinics on ways to become more English friendly.

Park’s inspiration for starting a company to help foreigners, as well as hospitals and clinics, came from an experience in England following a bout of food poisoning from Chinese takeout. “I was alone in a foreign country at that time with limited English skills, and it dawned on me that expats and tourists back in Korea probably were going through the same thing,” said Park.

One of Medina’s major goals is helping expats living in Korea with elective procedures like cosmetic surgery. As anyone that has been to Korea can attest, the Korean physicians have had a lot of experience in the field, which gives them a wealth of experience in “beauty” improvements, along with all of the latest technology to get it done.

So, if you are growing tired of that spot on your forehead, or you are looking to enhance yourself in other areas, so to speak, Korea is your best option. And when your girlfriend or boyfriend or your spouse has a heart attack from how good you look, you can confidently send them to the local Korean medical facility and know they are in good hands.

While companies like Medina are the best way to go (especially since they are no cost to the patient) you might want to brave it on your own. The City of Busan has a good site that is worth checking out, too.

Founder/Editor-in-Chief

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