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Gov't, S. Korea agree to collaborate on medical tourism

TAIPEI--A Taiwanese group has concluded a visit in South Korea to tap the country's experience in boosting medical tourism, and health and travel professionals from both sides have agreed to expand exchanges.

During the five-day trip that started Aug. 26, the group visited local hospitals and tour agencies in Seoul and discussed collaboration opportunities at a forum in an effort to help medical institutions in Taiwan strategize how to draw medical tourists.

Taiwan could learn from South Korea, which quickly made a name for its medical services globally, thanks to a combination of state support and effective marketing by businesses, said the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) Saturday.

The South Korean government burnished the country's image as a provider of quality health services by first offering to treat patients with serious or rare conditions from developing countries and inviting the international media to cover the treatments, said TAITRA, which organized the visit.

The government also invested heavily in advertisements overseas, commissioning the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) to help promote the country's medical tourism, the council added.

Citing another example of state support, TAITRA said health authorities and the Korea Health Industry Development Institute, a state-funded agency that promotes Korea's health industry, worked together in quality checks on medical institutions and cosmetic surgery operators.

In addition, plastic surgery providers successfully sold themselves through testimonial advertising and by placing their products and services in dramas featuring pop idols, TAITRA said.

According to KTO estimates, South Korea recorded over 120,000 medical tourist arrivals in 2011.

However, the figure could have been as high as 480,000 if the KTO took into consideration sightseers whose secondary purpose of visit was minor cosmetic operations or medical treatments, TAITRA said.

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