South Korea

Information for Patients
South Korea’s healthcare system is one of the best in Asia if not in the world. It relies heavily on the private sector in the delivery of healthcare services. In 2012, about 94% of hospitals and almost all of the clinics were privately owned. Citizens are not required to register with any healthcare providers, which means they are given access to medical institutions with little restrictions. The lacking of a strict gatekeeper makes it relatively easy for patients to access secondary care in tertiary hospitals. 

National Health Insurance (NHI) covers approximately 97% of the population and the remaining 3% is covered by the tax-funded Medical Aid Program. The NHI is mainly funded by outside contributions, government subsidies and out-of-pocket payments by the users. Despite universal coverage, out-of-pocket payments remained relatively high due to a large number of treatment exclusions from the NHI benefit package. Patients have to bear 20% of the cost for insured inpatient services, and differential cost-sharing is applied for out-patient care. 

Information for Health Care Professionals
Anyone who wishes to treat patients in South Korea needs to obtain a Korean medical license. A candidate must obtain a doctor’s license from their own country and graduate from a medical school approved by the Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare. If the above two criteria are met, the candidate is qualified to take the Korea Medical Licensing Examination in Korea. The examination must be taken in Korean language.

South Korea provides advanced treatments in the following areas: cancer, cardiovascular diseases, cosmetic surgery, dentistry, dermatology, organ transplantation, spinal disc injuries and more. 

Most of the medical professionals practicing in South Korea are local expertise. There are a very limited number of foreign physicians practicing in the country. However, many foreign physicians came to South Korea for training, such as organ transplant, before going back to their country. 

Information for Travelers 
South Korea is a popular destination for medical tourism. 1/5 of the patients sought treatment for internal medicine, followed by cosmetic surgery and dermatology. Cancer, stroke, organ transplant and rehabilitation are also some popular specialties. Most of the patients came from China, and the rest mainly came from the US, Japan and Russia. More and more patients from Arab countries also see South Korea as an ideal destination for medical treatment. 

In 2015, South Korea witnesses a serious outbreak of MERS-CoV resulted in nearly 200 cases including almost 40 fatalities. Travellers planning their trip to the country are recommended to receive multiple vaccinations, including Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid, Japanese Encephalitis, Rabies and Routine Vaccinations. 

Link to the Ministry of Health: