medical tourism-Middle East

SEOUL, April 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korea has successfully hosted events aimed at promoting its medical tourism industry in the Middle East, with a leading Hallyu actor taking regional cities by storm, a government agency said Friday.

The events, held in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from March 11 to 14, were intended to publicize South Korea's national brand Medical Korea, as the nation strives to attract foreign tourists to take advantage of its thriving medical industry, promoting the treatment of cancers, cardiac and vascular diseases, organ transplantation, as well as cosmetic procedures.

"The demand for closer medical cooperation between South Korea and the Middle East is rapidly increasing," the Korea Health Industry Development Institute (KHIDI), a public organization in charge of fostering the nation's health industry, said in a statement. "We organized these events to pique greater interest in Korean medical tourism among Middle Easterners and show just how advanced Korean medical technology has become."

Leading actor Song Joong-ki, who was appointed an honorary ambassador of medical tourism by the Ministry of Health and Welfare in February, attended the screenings of his latest film "A Werewolf Boy" and a promotional video by Medical Korea. He later held fan signing events and took photos with local attendants.

Over 500 Qatari citizens, journalists and embassy staff members attended the first event at the Qatar National Convention Center on March 11. More than 1,400 turned out at local universities in the UAE on March 13 and 14.

"Over half of those who waited outside had to be turned down due to limited capacity," the KHIDI said. "More than 1,000 people packed a two-story auditorium at an UAE university, where we told the local media about the booming medical industry in Korea."

One KHIDI official said the massive turnout was "unprecedented" in countries that held steadfast to conservative beliefs and Islamist traditions. "We've successfully laid the groundwork for mutual development of Korean and Middle Eastern medical industries by raising awareness about Korea's medical brand among local college students," the official said.

Actor Song, meanwhile, is scheduled to attend a commemorative event at "Medical Korea 2013," an international gathering to be held from April 9 to 11 in Seoul. The event is part of the 4th Global Healthcare