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From 62 years in 1971, life expectancy in South Korea has climbed over the years to reach its current figure of 83.21. In another nine years, the country is expected to top the chart, moving up the ranking from 10th, by clocking 84.07 years for men and an enviable 90.82 for women.

Access to quality healthcare, along with a host of other socio-economic factors, has played a huge role in this steady ascent. Supported by cutting-edge medical technology, skilled and experienced practitioners, as well as state-of-the-art IT-based infrastructure, South Korea’s health industry provides world-class care and services at a reasonable cost.

As evidenced during the global pandemic, the country’s healthcare system managed to control the spread of Covid-19 in a population of 51.71 million with just about 332,816 confirmed cases and 2,583 deaths reported to World Health Organisation until October 11, 2021. It has one of the lowest infection and mortality rates among the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries.

All credit goes to the country’s four-tiered infectious disease alert system as well as the optimal use of its outstanding medical resources.

With about 12.4 beds available per 1,000 of the population — higher than the average of 4.5 beds for OECD countries — and hospitals equipped with the latest medical devices and ICT-based epidemiological investigation support systems, South Korea conducted rapid testing, tracing and treatment to contain the pandemic. Through it all, it designated safe hospitals for the general public to continue receiving medical treatment without worrying about contracting Covid-19.

This high standard of care and efficiency have been the reason for South Korea’s emergence as a destination for medical tourism. From around 60,000 foreign patients in 2009, the number has been growing annually by about 23 per cent to reach a cumulative 2.76 million in 2019 from across 198 countries including the UAE (figure 1).

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That’s no surprise as South Korea has made a name for itself, especially for complex procedures such as organ transplants and cancer surgery.

Government efforts to eradicate cancer have resulted in cutting-edge treatment techniques, improving the clinical outcomes for patients and increasing the overall five-year survival rate [figure 2). Using the most advanced medical technology and equipment such as proton therapy, cyberknife and robotic surgery, South Korea offers precision cancer treatment with minimum side effects.

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The same goes for organ transplants too. Since their advanced systematic foundation establishment in 2000, innovations in surgical techniques and desensitisation therapy have resulted in high success rates for organ transplants. South Korea has recorded five-year post-transplant survival rates of 94.7 per cent for kidney, 92.8 per cent for pancreas, 77.8 per cent for liver and 76.3 per cent for heart (figure 3).

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However, it’s not only for complex procedures that medical tourists line up. Foreigners also seek out hospitals based in the country for run-of-the-mill services such as integrative internal medicine, dermatology, plastic surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology, orthopaedics, full health check-ups, neurosurgery and even traditional Korean medicine.

And why not? South Korea’s competitiveness as a destination for medical tourism has been recognised around the world. Organisations such as the International Medical Travel Journal bestowed the country with the Medical Tourism Destination of the Year award at its Medical Travel Summits in 2018 and 2019. At the World Medical Tourism Congress 2018, the Korea Health Industry Development Institute (KHIDI) was recognised for innovation in healthcare.

In an effort to further boost health tourism to the country, Medical Korea rebranded itself in 2020 to reflect the changes it has undergone since its inception in 2009.

Medical Korea has been trying to increase awareness about the latest advances in techniques and treatments in South Korea. As part of these initiatives, it will be hosting a CME-accredited webinar on Current Trends in Reconstructive Plastic Surgeries in Korea on November 12. The webinar will cover the latest cleft lip repair techniques, trends in ear reconstruction surgery, advances in DIEP flat breast reconstruction, and improvements in facial reanimation surgery.

CME-accredited webinar
Title: Current Trends on Reconstructive Plastic Surgeries in Korea
Sponsor: Korea Health Industry Devleopment Institute (KHIDI)
Organiser: Medetarian Conferences Organising (MCO)
Date: Friday, November 12, 2021
Contact information:,