Medical Tourism in South Korea: Do I Need a Visa?

medical tourism seoul

Health tourism in South Korea is a growing trend. The country is known for its high-quality healthcare system and advanced treatments for various conditions. It is now one of the most popular destinations in Asia to travel to for medical procedures.

With the emerging medical tourism in South Korea gaining an international reputation for its quality and affordability, particularly in fields such as plastic surgery, it is important to know which documents are required to travel to the country for treatment.

Foreign nationals who wish to undergo a medical procedure or see an expert in the country may require a South Korea medical visa.

How to Get a Medical Visa for South Korea

International visitors who require a visa for medical tourism in Korea must apply at an embassy for the relevant type.

There are 2 different types of South Korea medical visa. The type that is needed depends on how long the treatment in the country will take:

  • Visa C-3-3: permits a stay of up to 90 days in South Korea
  • Visa G-1-10: permits holders to undertake long-term treatment for up to one year

Currently, both types of medical visa for South Korea are only available from the country’s overseas embassies and consulates. Applicants must attend an interview and provide supporting documents.

Do Visa-Exempt Countries Need a South Korea Medical Visa?

Nationals of around 50 countries do not require a visa for South Korea medical tourism if the total length of time spent in the country is within the limit set for the traveler’s nationality. This is either 30 days, 60 days, or 90 days.

In the near future, citizens of these visa-exempt countries will instead have to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization, or South Korea ETA for short stays.

If the total time spent in the country, including treatment, will exceed the time limit for the patient’s nationality, a medical visa will be required. Check the South Korea visa requirements to find out the maximum length of time an exempt traveler can spend without a visa.

What Documents Are Required for a South Korea Medical Visa?

A number of documents must be brought to the embassy and submitted as part of the application for a South Korean medical visa:

  • Completed medical visa application form
  • Passport-style photograph
  • Passport with a minimum of 6 months’ validity remaining
  • Medical record confirming the diagnosis or a doctor’s note
  • Document from the Korean medical institution stating the appointment for treatment and/or recovery
  • Proof of funds to cover the stay
  • Any additional documents requested by the embassy (e.g. original documents proving familial relationship if the applicant is the caregiver of the patient)

After the launch of the ETA for South Korea, medical tourism will become simpler for visa-exempt travelers undergoing short-term treatment and recovery in the country.

The South Korea ETA application form will be available online. The streamlined process will be done remotely, from the comfort of the traveler’s home, avoiding the need to attend an interview at an embassy.

Does South Korea Have Good Healthcare?

South Korea’s healthcare system is very well-regarded around the world. It is known to be one of the best in Asia and its hospitals are constantly updated and equipped with the latest innovations in the medical field.

Over 1000 liver transplants are carried out in South Korea each year, with a success rate of 96% (compared to the 88% average for developed countries).

Medical tourism in Korea has become popular as the country’s reputation for using innovative and cutting-edge technology and techniques has grown.

Seoul, Korea is one of the top destinations in Asia for medical tourism.

Of the 37 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, South Korea ranks 2nd in terms of the quality of its medical facilities and equipment, 4th in medical service, and 9th in terms of technology.

Why Go to South Korea for Medical Treatment?

South Korea has many doctors who are experts in their fields and advanced technology in many medical centers.

In terms of South Korea medical tourism, plastic surgery and skincare treatments are some of the most popular reasons to travel for treatment.

Hospitals and medical centers in major cities like Seoul and Busan tend to be multi-lingual and offer a comprehensive range of treatments. Some centers have been created specifically to cater for international patients and packages are available that include travel, accommodation, and recuperation.

Healthcare in South Korea tends to be affordable for western medical tourists and the facilities are constantly improving thanks to investment.

How Much Does Medical Tourism in Korea Cost?

Medical services in South Korea are generally very affordable considering the advanced medical technology that is available.

Treatments for heart problems and joint replacements can be expensive, but in South Korea, many procedures cost around one-third of the price quoted in the US and around ⅔ of the figures charged in Japan.