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Analysis on International Competitiveness of the Korean Medical Tourism Industry and the Policy Implications

Author Mun-Gu Huh, Hyun-Seung Cho, Dong-Soo Kim Date 2013.04.04 Issue No 555

The medical tourism industry, combining medical care with tourism services, is rapidly emerging as a source of future economic growth, with growing competition among states worldwide in the rush toward leadership of this emerging market.


The international medical tourism market is growing at a rapid pace. Korea is a relatively newcomer to the trend, but its medical tourism industry is also growing dramatically.


- Thanks to the increasing number of foreigners visiting Korea in search of medical services, the balance of trade in the related industry recorded a surplus in 2011, which is for the first time in its history.


South Korea ranks 19th among the 34 OECD member-states in terms of the overall competitiveness of its medical tourism industry.


- On the other hand, Korea came in second, fourth, and ninth among the OECD member-states, in terms of facilities/equipment, the quality of medical services, and the state of technology, respectively.


- However, Korea came in 31st and 33rd in terms of the size of the human resources specializing in medical tourism and the potential for the industry’s growth, respectively.


- The gaps between the scores indicate noteworthy imbalance in Korea’s medical tourism industry.


In order for Korea to become a hub of medical tourism in Asia, regulations need to be lifted, government-wide support provided, and greater use made of the international networks.


- For-profit medical corporations inviting investment need to be operated on a trial-basis in order to improve Korea’s competitiveness.


- A government-wide taskforce needs to be launched to organize and administer support.