Foreign patients who have accidents while being treated at Korean medical facilities will be able to receive compensation guaranteed by the government.
Hospitals will also be able to sell drugs to foreign patients directly without having to refer their prescriptions to nearby pharmacies, and foreign medical staff visiting Korea for training purposes will be able to participate in clinical procedures.
These are part of medical tourism guidelines announced by the Ministry of Health and Welfare on Wednesday.
Medical tourism has been one of the main growth engines of the Lee Myung-bak government since 2009.
Under the plan, the government will issue certificates to medical tourism agencies. Visa issuances will also be eased to attract people who cannot spare much time for complicated administrative procedures.
The measures come as Korea is still far behind some countries in the medical tourism field. According to the government, 81,789 foreigners visited Korea for healthcare purposes last year while Thailand, Singapore and India managed to attract 1.5 million, 720,000 and 730,000, respectively, during the same period.
The authorities see Korea as being backward in terms of global awareness and brand image, while the Korean Medical Association claims the level of medical service is as high as many other market leaders while price is relatively moderate.
Along with the measures, the government has decided to strengthen its overseas promotion and produce more staff workers including “medical interpreters” devoted to the field. It expects the Medical Korea Academy to draw talented foreign staff to experience the Korean medical system.
“We will make medical facilities more foreigner-friendly so that people will feel comfortable in choosing Korea as their destination for treatment. We will also try to cut the red tape while guaranteeing patients’ rights,” Lim In-taek, a ministry official, said.
By Bae Ji-sook (email@example.com