Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Medical Tourism Project Fails to Take Off

Tourism ads "may need rethink"
In recent years Government Ministers of various parties have undertaken a succession of national projects aimed at reinventing Korea's traditional industries which are being replaced by cheaper Chinese copies. One of the latest big ideas was medical tourism, dubbed 'Ubiquitous HealthHub 2012'. But ticket sales have been slow.

63-year-old Professor Kim, the head of the newly renamed Seoul International Hospital, explained that the large amounts of blood spillage which can occur in some of the more major procedures may be putting off the tourists. "Medical staff are used to it of course, but it may be more than some overseas visitors are expecting, and certainly popcorn sales have been disappointing." he said.

It is not clear where this leaves the Government's plans, which incorporated elements of the previously disappointing 'FoodHub' project. Some insiders have suggested that having lunch at Korean Beef Restaurants after tourists have viewed the medical procedures, rather than beforehand, may be better. However, this could be difficult - Korean surgeons are resistant to the idea of operating in the morning as most of them are too hung over before lunch to work effectively. It would also be difficult to eat later in the day since the evening 'WhoreHub' element of the tourism plan remains popular. Some industry experts have urged Tourism Korea and the Ministry of Health to rethink the 'Ubiquitous HealthHub 2012' advertising campaign, which despite being a big hit with Koreans, was described as 'a little dark' by some foreigners.

Politicians have suggested that foreign tourists could be invited to undergo medical procedures themselves while in Korea - Korean hospitals are the most advanced in the world and often diagnose conditions which hospitals outside Korea cannot find. Plus, studies show that tourists often pick up injuries on the bus from Incheon International Airport into Seoul which could be treated surgically.

A few politicians have gone so far as to propose that foreigners with pre-existing medical conditions intentionally travel to Korea for treatment which they are unable to obtain back home. But Professor Kim dismisses this idea as completely unrealistic: "In properly diagnosing conditions and taking the patient's individual medical history into consideration, it's extremely important that there is no language barrier between patient and doctor, otherwise serious mistakes could be made. The idea that foreigners might arrive in Korea from various non-Korean speaking countries around the world seeking treatment, leaving us to operate on a 'best guess' basis, is frankly ridiculous."

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