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Using Medical Services in Korea

In South Korea, foreigners can receive problem-free medical services.

The Seoul Global Center offers a 24 hour medical referral service, and foreign-language speaking staff members are also available for information and consultation on medical facilities and services for foreign residents.

Expatriates are eligible for local medical insurance, with the same benefits as Korean citizens. Both categories of the service - for both employees and the self-employed - cover foreigners according to their working conditions.

Purchasing prescription or over-the-counter drugs is possible at local pharmacies. Patent medicines include digestives, nutrients, vitamins, fever and cold remedies, and pain medications. Prescriptions are required to obtain medicines such as antibiotics, hormonal drugs and some special pain medications.

Introduced below are the medical services and types of medical insurance in more detail, and other related information for foreigners.

Medical System in Korea

Various medical institutions in Korea, including private hospitals, general hospitals, oriental hospitals and public health centers, provide high quality medical services through medical specialists and cutting-edge medical equipment. Highly advanced medical fields in Korea include ophthalmology, spinal surgery, dentistry, plastic surgery, heart surgery and infertility treatment.

With the rapidly increasing number of foreigners visiting or residing in Korea, more medical facilities have opened international clinics and have sought to provide medical services that best meet foreigners’ medical needs and global standards.

The country’s medical facilities are categorized into three types according to the number of medical departments and size of the medical facilities. To use third-tier hospitals, a patient needs a referral letter from a first- or second-tier medical facility. If the patient goes directly to a third-tier hospital without a referral letter, he/she cannot receive medical insurance coverage and will have to pay the high medical costs. Foreigners can directly use the medical services of the international clinics in third-tier hospitals. However, it is more costly.

First-tier medical facilities

These types of facilities include private hospitals and public health centers. First-tier medical facilities have a limited number of medical departments and provide a comprehensive medical service for treating and preventing early symptoms of diseases.

Second-tier medical facilities

Second-tier medical facilities have medical specialists and more than four medical departments. They provide medical services for both inpatients and outpatients. In general, these types of facilities have 30 to 500 beds. Emergency treatment is available.

Third-tier medical facilities

General hospitals or hospitals belonging to medical schools are categorized as third-tier medical facilities. These types of facilities have medical specialists in various different medical departments, more than 500 hospital beds, and offer specialized medical services for emergencies.

How to Make Medical Appointments

To receive fast and convenient treatment, making medical appointments in advance is highly recommended.

Appointments can be made by visiting or calling the hospital.

Appointments are available through fax or the hospital website. When visiting a hospital to make an appointment, an insurance card should be at hand.

Fill out an appointment application form and submit it at the Patient Affairs Department window.

Paying for Medical Treatment

Medical fees can be paid at the administration office of the hospital. Most hospitals accept credit cards. At some hospitals with international clinics, medical fees can be paid through the international clinics. Or the international clinics can provide assistance with preparing the documents required for payment . In general, many hospitals provide receipts for medical treatment in English. Medical expenses vary depending on whether the patient has insurance or not. Some hospitals accept overseas health insurance if the insurance company is affiliated with the hospital. For overseas health insurance coverage, foreign patients need to make the payment before submitting a claim to their insurance company.