Roughly four-hundred-thousand medical tourists came to South Korea for procedures last year. While most came for plastic surgery, about twenty-two thousand people came to avail of Korean medicine, marking the second highest increase of foreign patients annually. Among the most popular treatments is acupuncture, which is believed to stimulate blood flow and help the body heal.
"In addition to the acupuncture treatment, many foreign patients come here for "Chuna treatment", a traditional Korean way of correcting a patient’s spine."
Chuna looks similar to physical therapy done by Western therapists, but is different in that the doctors practicing Korean medicine gently apply pressure to specific points of the spine to restore balance to the body's bones.
"I'm totally satisfied. I regularly come to the hospital for the treatment, and every time I receive it, I feel better. The effect of the treatment is noticeable."
Patients say they heard about the Korean medicine from their family and friends. Some say they chose Korean medicine over Western because they were skeptical of their local hospitals.
"In Mongolia, local doctors recommended surgery, and my family was worried, but I heard that Korean medicine offers ways to soothe the pain, so I came to receive the treatment here. Now I'm satisfied and thankful."
Korean doctors aren't the only ones who practice the ancient tradition.
"The language barrier is much easier to be overcome (with me). And I do understand the Western people way of thinking. So I can explain as they can understand, and not the Korean way, but let's call it the "international way" of explanation. So it's for them (the patients) much easier to understand what I mean. And it's much easier to follow the treatment."
The number of foreign patients coming to Korea has been on the rise for almost a decade now, and it seems those seeking out Korean medicine as an alternative to surgery is also likely to continue to increase.
Choi Si-young, Arirang News.