South Korea: Medical Tourism Destination for Arabs

by by Kwon Tae-kyun ,  Korea JoongAng Daily | 2013-01-09

South Korea, a country rather unknown to the people of the United Arab Emirates, is coming closer to the Middle East as the number of Arabs visiting the country as medical travelers is increasing.

Lately, the number of foreign patients visiting Korean facilities for medical service is growing exponentially.

As the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is sending citizens overseas on a government budget - for those with conditions that require services that cannot be obtained in the country, such as organ transplants or heart surgery, Arabs have an advantage. About 7,000 patients go to medically advanced countries such as Germany, the United Kingdom, Singapore and Thailand, which offer high-quality medical services. Bariatric-Surgery-South-Korea

The yearlong negotiation finalized in 2011, resulted in a treaty between Korea and the UAE. The health care cooperation agreement began taking effect as of December 2011. The Korean Ambassador in the UAE said there have been requests for more than 100 patients so far. In order to promote the service further, more careful efforts are needed.

International Patients for the Korean medical facilities mostly came from the Middle East - up from 950 in 2010 to 1,800 last year.

It’s an eight hours flight, but the psychological distance is regarded as quite large. Most Arabs know that Korea is a leader in the mobile phone and automobile industries. But they are still not certain whether it is convenient, safe and reliable for the patients and their families to visit.

The medical service industry should combine efforts with the Korean government, the ambassador said, and should make comprehensive efforts to collaborate with the local media to promote the quality of medical service in Korea and to develop products on medical tourism.

Second, comes the cultural accommodation – most of the UAE citizens are proficient in English, yet to help patients accurately describe their conditions to the medical professionals, there has to be an interpretation service in Arabic and not the least important, a considerate guide service.

Also, when Muslims plan a trip, properly prepared food and a space for prayer are crucial factors. Furthermore, it is a custom to travel as a family, so while the patient receives medical care, the family members can go sightseeing.

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