The number of Chinese patients visiting Korea rebounded in 2018, signaling that the Beijing-Seoul tensions after Korea’s deployment of the U.S. Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in 2017 have nearly come to an end.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare said the number of foreign patients who visited Korea last year stood at 378,967, up 17.8 percent from 321,574 in 2017. Since the nation allowed hospitals to attract international patients in 2009, the total number of foreign patients who came to Korea for treatment has hit 2.26 million in 10 years.
The number of foreign patients dipped temporarily in 2017 but came to the pre-2016 level and recorded the highest number last year since 2009.
By country, patients from 190 countries came to Korea with the Chinese taking the biggest proportion, followed by Americans, Japanese, Russians, and Mongolians.
Chinese patients took up one-third, or 118,310, of the total foreign patients. The number rose 18.5 percent year-on-year. The 2018 figure came closer to 127,648 recorded in 2016 when there no diplomatic frictions between Korea and China.
The number of patients from Japan surged to 42,563, up 56 percent from 27,283 a year earlier marking the fastest growth.
Those from Thailand and Indonesia also rose significantly, up 46.6 percent and 37.1 percent, respectively, affected by the rising popularity of Korean pop culture there.
In contrast, the number of patients from the Middle East inched down 4.8 percent to 6,888 in 2018 from 7,238 in 2017. Those from the United Arab Emirates plummeted 10.3 percent.
By department, internal medicine drew the largest number of foreign patients of about 90,000, or 19.4 percent of the total. Following it was plastic surgery with 14.4 percent, dermatology with 13.7 percent, health checkup with 8.9 percent, and obstetrics and gynecology with 5.3 percent. The proportions were similar to those shown in the previous year.
By type of institution, clinics attracted most foreign patients with 37.5 percent, followed by general hospitals with 25.0 percent, tertiary general hospitals with 21.3 percent, and hospitals with 10.2 percent.
By region, Seoul attracted 64.8 percent, or 245,000 foreign patients, followed by Gyeonggi Province with 12.2 percent, Incheon/Daegu with 4.7 percent each, and Busan with 4 percent.
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