Armenian President Among Health Tourists in Korea

Korea's booming medical tourism industry has for the first time attracted a foreign head of state as the Armenian president had rejuvenation treatment here recently.

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan was driven by a convoy of black sedans to Chaum Center in Gangnam on Jan. 9 led by a police escort. Chaum is a rejuvenation clinic run by CHA Health Systems.

Accompanying Sargsyan were the ex-president of a former Soviet satellite nation and a Russian tycoon from Armenia. The tycoon had also been part of Russian President Vladimir Putin's entourage on his state visit last year and experienced the clinic's service at the time.

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan (seated) talks to medical staff at Chaum Center in Gangnam on Jan. 9. /Courtesy of Chaum Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan (seated) talks to medical staff at Chaum Center in Gangnam on Jan. 9. /Courtesy of Chaum

The group visited Chaum every day during their weeklong stay here and had treatment including stem cell therapy, spa and anti-aging therapy, body polishes and massages and weight-control programs.

Clinic staff say Sargsyan was escorted by police and the National Intelligence Service during his stay. The group paid a total of W200 million (US$1=W1,076) for their treatment and left on Jan. 17.

Since opening in 2010, Chaum has drawn many rich people from around the world who come to Seoul in their private jets. Among them were Chinese and Canadian business tycoons, the prime minister of Kazakhstan and Saudi and UAE royalty.

The reasons for medical tourism are diversifying. Recently, former Korean national soccer coach Guus Hiddink visited a hospital in Seoul to undergo knee surgery.

Last year, more than 200,000 foreigners are estimated to have visited Korea for medical treatment. The Health Ministry expects the number of medical tourists to reach 1 million in 2020.

englishnews@chosun.com / Jan. 24, 2014 11:58 KST