SEOUL, April 18 (Korea Bizwire) – The number of foreigners visiting South Korea for medical purposes decreased last year for the first time mainly due to the weak inbound traffic from China, government data showed Wednesday.
According to the data from the Ministry of Health and Welfare, a total of 321,574 foreigners arrived here in 2017 to visit hospitals, down 12 percent from a year earlier.
The number of foreign patients increased by an average of 11 percent on-year since 2009 when 60,201 foreigners visited South Korea, the ministry said.
Medical expenditures of foreign patients decreased 26 percent on-year to 860.6 billion won (US$806.2 million) last year, with an average of 2.36 million won spent by each foreign patient, the data showed.
Chinese were the biggest clients with 127,000 patients in 2017, down 22 percent on-year, making up more than 30 percent of the total, the ministry said.
China has been banning package tours to South Korea in retaliation against the deployment of a U.S. missile defense system in southeastern South Korea.
China has repeatedly pressed South Korea to withdraw the missile system out of concern that the deployment could hurt Beijing’s security interests.
Patients from Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan decreased 21 percent on-year and 16 percent on-year in 2017, respectively, the data showed.
Patients from Thailand, meanwhile, surged 56 percent on-year on the back of the popularity of Korean entertainment, with 62 percent of them visiting plastic surgeons, the data showed.
Demand for internal treatments accounted for 20 percent, while plastic surgery and skincare composed 12 percent and 11 percent, respectively, last year, the ministry noted.