April 25, 2023 12:41
Health tourism to Korea is reviving after the country opened up to foreign visitors after the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare on Monday, 248,110 foreign patients arrived here last year, up about 70 percent from the previous year's 145,842. That is still only about half of pre-pandemic levels of 497,000 in 2019, but they are coming back fast.
Medical tourists from Japan increased the most at 6.6 times to a whopping 21,757 last year, pushing the island country up from eighth to third in terms of proportion among foreign patients.
Most of them came for plastic surgery with 8,600 or 39.5 percent, followed by 6,886 or 31.6 percent who came for skincare or treatment.
Gangnam Medical Tour Center had 553 inquiries about health tourism here in the first quarter of this year, roughly double the number in the same period last year.
"About one-third of the inquiries are made by Japanese," said a staffer at the center. "They've been influenced by the craze for Korean pop culture and products and can enter Korea without a visa."
But American patients topped the list with 44,095 or 17.8 percent, followed by Chinese at 43,923. "In the past, most patients came from China, but their number has been stagnating since lockdown," a ministry official said.
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