Fewer hospitals licensed for medical tourism in South Korea

Following a strengthening of safety requirements, the South Korean government has granted licenses to 1,560 medical institutions to treat foreign patients.

The South Korean government has granted 1,560 medical institutions, which met strengthened safety requirements, licenses to treat foreign patients. This includes having medical malpractice insurance.

The number is almost half the 2,840 from 2016, as 1,515 institutions did not seek a license because they failed to meet the new requirements.

According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, these medical institutions will be able to offer treatments to foreign patients and 1,047 licenced private businesses can engage in marketing to attract medical tourists over the next three years.

Hospitals seeking to attract foreign tourists for medical services must renew their licenses every three years or face a fine of up to 30 million won ($26,300) or a prison term of up to three years.

The ministry has published a brochure in various languages to provide accurate information on finding reliable medical institutions.

Foreign patients undergoing cosmetic surgery or dermatological treatments are exempted from value-added tax, which accounts for 10 % of medical fees for locals.

The ministry offers hospitals and clinics interpretation services for foreign patients.

A new website, health.medicalkorea.or.kr, now offers medical check-up programmes at hospitals.

According to the government the number of medical tourists (or more accurately the number of international patients) increased to 364,189 in 2016 from 296,889 in 2015, generating $760 million in revenue.

The government aims to increase the number of medical tourists to 1 million by 2020.