The a newcomer in the market for

The term Hallyu originated from the Korean
name  for the phenomenon of the Korean
Wave Hanryu (Hangul: ??).
The term is made up of two base words; han (?) generally meaning “Korean”,
meanwhile liu or ryu (?)
is defined as “flow” or “wave”, implying  to the wide spread of Korean culture to the


Hallyu or otherwise referred to the Korean
Wave stemmed from the increasing aspiration to find out more about the
Korean  culture. This started around the
1990s and spread like wildfire throughout the globe. Since the Koreans are
known to be warm and friendly, the path to Hallyu is visited everyday by both
the young and old and totally fascinated by what they learn about the culture,
food and entertainment. Thus, Hallyu’s integration  into their daily lives and the urge to
explore about this foreign culture stimulates Hallyu to transcend into more
sophisticated cultural forms , which in turn, makes Hallyu go to a higher

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One of the milestones of this is the
Medical Tourism in Korea.
Although Korea
is relatively a newcomer in the market for global medical tourism, it has
emerged as one of the popular destinations. The idea stemmed from the
successful reports from earlier countries like Thailand, Singapore and India,
inspiring the Korean government to adopt this system to foster economic
advancement. At a time when economic recession was prevalent, medical tourism
through the Hallyu provided the much needed boost to create more job
opportunities and generate a more sustainable income. Based on its popularity,
the Korean government, in 2009, classified medical tourism as a new growth
engine and a few actions were implemented for example, allocation of a nominal
budget, a promotional law and formulating new specialist committees. Statistics
showed that from 2007 to 2013, the number of foreign patients who came  for medical tourism  grew from 16 000 to 210 000 patients and
profit earned boomed from USD 68 million to USD 390 million.

In the year 2015, South Korea
opened its doors to  roughly 340,000
medical tourists – although the exact breakdown on the  number that had cosmetic treatments  done was not available. Ernst & Young
noted that the South Korean government had invested around US$5.2 billion or
1.4 per cent of its Budget in culture and media, with the aim of adding it to
US$7.8 billion, or 2 per cent of the Budget, in 2017 to boost the medical
tourism indirectly.

By 2020, the South Korean
government has targeted to promote further the health and wellness segment  , with a plan 
to entice one million medical tourists into the country.



How did Hallyu help in this ? The
immense popularity of Korean pop
culture in most parts of the world has given rise to the South Korean government
to support its creative industries through subsidies and funding for start-ups. The introduction covers K-pop music and TV dramas and movies,
and extends into fashion, food and beauty. Its success has had a substantial
influence on South Korea,
not just in cultural terms but also in adding some dazzle to an economy more
associated with shipbuilding and electronics. Hallyu was promoted through the
media  worldwide with easy accessibility online
by creating a national pop culture content. Once it had established a firm
national culture it combined other foreign factors to create a culture content
that’s uniquely Korea,”
said Mr Joongshik Wang, partner at Ernst & Young Corporate Finance.



The Hallyu economy is the most recent event  in which Korean products are chosen in
overseas markets and have obtained increased sales volumes. ‘The Hallyu economy’ is distinguished by a mixture
of aggressive marketing, a premium image, localization strategies, affordable
prices, and superior quality and design. Until today, marketing of top-tier Hallyu stars has been of great support for
Korean companies with a low level of global exposure to obtain access to the
worldl market (3). The direct economic results of Hallyu are based on the growth in export of
Korean culture, that is, of cultural content. Exports are a growth motive for
the pop culture industry. Indirect economic effects of Hallyu may lead to the improved
recognition of Korea, the increased sales of Korean consumer products, the
promotion of the business activities of Korean companies, including the popular
medical tourism. “Since the popularity of K-Pop and Korean
drama started to boom in the late 1990s, the South Korean government has been
increasing its financial support towards the Korean culture business. This
included launching a US$1 billion investment fund to support the pop industry
in 2005,” says Mr Wang.





The recent tourism campaign in
2017, had featured 52 Hallyu cultural festivals and the Korea Grand Sale next
month, similar to the Great Singapore Sale, among many things.

It is hoped that the series
of events can boost tourist arrivals to 20 million a year and a high percentage
going to medical tourism.Initiatives planned were  increasing the number of Korean Cultural
Centres and Korean language centres all over  the world. The King Sejong Institute, for
instance, has 143 centres in 57 countries, and plans are being made  to set up more around the globe   by the end of the year, to encourage the
learning of the Korean language.

Mr Song, who has been
following K-wave trends for 15 years, says “effective cross-selling”
was a key success factor. “They are good in tying everything together.
There’s the music and drama, but the pop stars, actors and actresses portray a
certain style or look that in turn created demand for fashion and skincare
products or cosmetic procedures,” Mr Song adds.

Media firms like  S.M.Entertainment, JYP Entertainment and CJ
E&M Corporation have been applauded for their ability to produce stars, and
create captivating content and well-produced music videos. A classic example is
pop star Psy’s Gangnam Style, which spawned a distinctive dance that turned
into  a worldwide craze. The song has
attracted views from You tube exceeding over 2.6 billion from the time it was
uploaded  in July 2012. This exposure to
Korean fever has helped tremendously with the Hallyu can be clearly
seen, the South Korean entertainment industry with all its giltz and glamour
has played its part in lifting the medical tourism sector as well – as many
flocked to the country for a little nip or tuck to improve their looks. An
example of the Hallyu movement has been successful in promoting medical tourism
is in the ever increasing patients that want to undergo plastic surgery in  plastic surgery clinics in Gangnam/Apgujeong
area which offer medical tourism packages for foreign visitors, based on the
information provided by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic


Although being able to
provide the best services and packages to patient visitors in medical tourism ,
it has two major drawbacks: language and the legal system.Hallyu was only able
to help in promoting the knowledge of culture but not the acquiring of the
language. A fundamental requirement for any kind of  hospitality provider  is an effective communication system. In Korea, the
first language is not English for the doctors or their team. Thus,
international patients will face language related issues. To overcome this
problem, medical tourism facilitators are appointed that can steer the industry
to the right path. The role of these facilitators are broken down into 4 main
facets which are, healthcare, tourism/concierge, documentation, and
travel(Medical Avenue, 2015). At present, the Korean Tourism Organization (KTO)
and Seoul National University Healthcare System Gangnam Center are jointly
organizing training courses for medical tourism coordinators to provide a good
basis of communication.

In short, Hallyu has
played  a prominent role in medical
tourism and the efforts taken by the Korean Government should be commended. By
this type of branding through Hallyu, it has created a trend on the aesthetic
look that has taken the world by storm. Although some may argue that too much
emphasis is put on physical appearance, it doesn’t seem to be fading away. Definitely,
this craze will boost the Korean government’s economy through medical tourism
and the smart utilization of Hallyu to reach this goal should not be taken for

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