China’s Thaad retaliation has impacted the number of foreign patients visiting Korea for the first time, but Chinese patients continue to take up one third of the patient base. Plastic surgery was the most favored area of treatment for Chinese patients.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare released Wednesday statistics that showed that the number of foreign patients that visited Korea last year recorded 321,574, a 12 percent decline from 364,189 in 2016. The number of Chinese patients, in particular, dwindled 21.8 percent from 2016, a significant drop. The decrease reflects the impact of China’s Thaad retaliation dramatically reducing the number of visitors to Korea from March last year.
However, figures show that Chinese still accounted for the largest share of foreign patients. Last year, the number of Chinese patients recorded 99,837, representing 31 percent of foreign patients, followed by Americans (13.8 percent) and Japanese (8.5 percent). Interestingly, the number of Thai patients reached 6,137, which is 56 percent higher than the previous year’s figure, thanks to the popularity of Korean pop culture.
The medical treatment sought by foreign patients diverged significantly. The Chinese overwhelmingly sought beauty treatment in plastic surgery (19.3 percent) and dermatology (16.3 percent) treatment. Japanese patients also visited dermatology (30.3 percent) and plastic surgery (19.5 percent) clinics the most. More than 60 percent of Thai patients visited plastic surgery clinics. Such statistics reflect Asian tourists’ strong interest towards Korean plastic surgery.
Meanwhile, American patients mostly received internal medicine treatment (25.7 percent) and medical examination (8.8 percent). As a whole, foreign patients visited internal medicine clinics (20.2 percent), plastic surgery clinics (12.3 percent) and dermatology clinics (10.9 percent), showing little difference from the previous year.