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Half of medical tourists visiting Korea inspired by K-culture

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Two foreign women stroll through the tourist district of Myeong-dong in central Seoul, Sept. 23, 2022. Korea Times file
Two foreign women stroll through the tourist district of Myeong-dong in central Seoul, Sept. 23, 2022. Korea Times file

By Ko Dong-hwan

Nearly half of all foreign medical tourists visiting Korea last year were motivated as a consequence of their interest in the country's popular and dynamic culture, according to a survey, Sunday.

In a survey by the Korea Health Industry Development Institute (KHIDI), it was found that 49.7 percent of 1,200 respondents who underwent medical treatments here said their experience of K-culture, including K-pop, encouraged them to travel to Korea and undergo treatment, up from 24.3 percent in 2021. The respondents were part of 248,110 foreign medical tourists, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

K-culture refers to a wide range of practices stemming from the country, items created by Koreans and activities widely and readily accessible in Korea, such as food, tourism hotspots, traditional practices, cosmetic products, K-pop, films and dramas.

Among the medical tourists, those from Southeast Asian countries displayed the highest tendency to undergo some type of treatment due to K-culture, standing at 69.3 percent. They were closely followed by people from Japan at 64 percent, China at 61 percent, Russia at 53 percent and Kazakhstan and other former Soviet nations at 20 percent.

Women were more affected by K-culture than men ― 52 percent to 47 percent respectively ― while those in their 30s stood at 57 percent and those in their 20s were at 53 percent, the top two age groups accounting for the biggest proportion of the respondents.

The poll also showed that 91.3 percent of the respondents, who had experienced Korean culture in their home countries, made appointments with medical service providers in Korea before boarding their flights to Seoul. The figure indicated K-culture fans' better preparedness for their visits to Korea than the other group whose pre-departure medical booking rate stood at 73 percent.

Those familiar with Korean culture spent more money than those who are not, spending an average of $7,308 (9.67 million won) compared with $5,745 from the opposite group.

Regardless of their K-culture awareness, all respondents gave an average of 89 out of 100 regarding their satisfaction level with the country's medical services. Over 94 percent of the respondents said that they are prepared to recommend Korea to others as a medical tourism destination.

The survey showed the importance of online booking systems, not just for major hospitals in Korea but also for smaller medical service providers, the authority said. They said the hospitals are advised to provide services not only in English but also in different Asian languages.

Ko Dong-hwan


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