Medical tour hotel rules are updatedRules for hotels catering to medical tourism visitors are being changed in an effort to boost the sector.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said Friday that it would reduce the minimum number of patients a year to 200 from the current 500.
Although the government first introduced the hotel category in 2014, not a single establishment has registered for the specialized status due to the high minimums.
The establishments also have to have special facilities that cater to those with disabilities, larger rooms and foreign-language-speaking staff and services to accommodate patients and their families.
The Culture Ministry said the standard change was approved during a cabinet meeting on Tuesday and that it would go into effect on Nov. 19.
Medical tourism has been on the rise in Korea, as 378,967 foreign patients visited the country last year, increasing by over sixfold from 2009 when only 60,201 patients came for treatment, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
A total of 2.26 million patients has come to Korea for treatment over the past decade.
Last year, 19.4 percent of foreign patients came to Korea for treatment under the broad internal medicine category, which includes respiratory diseases and blood cancer, while 14.4 percent of patients visited for plastic surgery.
The Culture Ministry also announced that it would pursue regulation changes that would allow booth-type karaoke, or coin noraebang, to be installed at convenience stores and cafes.
The ministry explained that it had received numerous requests for relaxed rules that would allow noraebang booths at small food catering establishments, a category that covers convenience stores to ice cream stores. It added that it would work with the noraebang industry and other related government ministries for the regulation change.
Coin noraebang, which cater to individuals or small groups, have become popular as an alternative to traditional singing joints, usually known for late-night company dinners. Users can sing a song or two inside booths for around 500 won (43 cents).
They have also picked up due to lower operational costs compared to traditional noraebang, which require more workers for management.
According to a KB Financial Group report, there were 778 newly registered coin noraebang in 2017 compared to just 17 in 2012.
As of May this year, there were 2,839 coin noraebang in the country.
BY CHAE YUN-HWAN [email@example.com]