South Korea is famous for the skill of its plastic surgeons. As a result, Seoul clinics are attracting Westerners in droves.
The South Korean city of Seoul has become a global hotspot for cosmetic enhancement. It’s been estimated that 1 in 5 Koreans have undergone plastic surgery procedures – around 15-30% of the general population. In Korea, patients tend to be younger than those in the West, and the surgeries undertaken are generally more invasive.
The Chinese were the first foreigners to add Korea to their medical tourism itinerary, with thousands crossing the border every day in pursuit of surgical improvements. The British and US media have reported that these transformations have been so extreme that numerous homebound Chinese tourists have had to be issued temporary passports in order to re-enter their country.
Caucasian Plastic Surgery Korea
Thanks to the growth of medical tourism agencies, the West has begun to catch on. Women and men of all nationalities and ethnicities are making a beeline for the surgical district of Gangnam, Seoul, where the train stations of Sinsa and Apgujong are littered with leaflets from upscale plastic surgery clinics. Plastic surgery prices in the US and UK can be astronomical compared to those in Korea – especially for radical procedures like jaw repositioning surgery, which isn’t commonly done for aesthetic purposes in the Western hemisphere. South Korean surgeons are so highly skilled in a variety of complex procedures that medical tourists are no longer seeing Seoul as simply a ‘budget’ destination for surgery, with accompanying risks of low quality, but as a ‘go to’ destination for amazing, transformative results.
However, aside from the Asian diasphora, it seems that Korea is appealing to Westerners of different ethnic backgrounds. Not only is plastic surgery considerably cheaper, Korea’s surgeons are arguably more skilled than anywhere else in the world. Combining cosmetic surgery with a vacation affords medical tourists the discretion which is so often sought by Westerners who go under the knife – many of whom wish to return from their ‘holidays’ looking rested, although on occasion, entirely different in a number of ways.
KoreanPlastic.com spoke to Carole, a 46 year old housewife from London, UK, who first became acquainted with Korean culture when she accompanied her husband on a month long business trip to Seoul two years ago. “A number of my friends in the UK had started having procedures when they hit 40”, she said, “but very often it was something they were cagey about. One friend confided in me that she’d had Botox at a Harley Street clinic in London, and an older friend of mine had a face lift some years ago. From my experience, surgery is always talked about in hushed tones; my two friends didn’t want their secret to get out.”
Prior to visiting Seoul, Carole had never had any surgery herself, viewing it as an expensive indulgence. She was shocked by how open the wives of her husband’s Korean business partners were about their surgery, however. She recalls, “When one woman asked me if I’d like her plastic surgeon’s contact details, I was initially quite offended”. But when Carole discovered how commonplace surgery is in Korea and that it has virtually no stigma attached to it, she became more intrigued.
“I had felt for some time that I looked pretty tired, and had been trying various expensive eye creams with no effect. I allowed my new friend to accompany me to the plastic surgery clinic where she’d had her eyes done and was pleasantly surprised at how professional the staff were and how clean and welcoming the clinic was, as well as their high command of English.”
In 2014, ten days before returning to the UK, Carole had an eye lift under local anaesthetic, and felt well enough to squeeze in a brief shopping trip the next day. “The procedure was half the price of what I might have paid in London, and I’m over the moon with the results”, she exclaimed.
Carole is contemplating returning for a face lift in a year or so. Although she’s been tempted to talk about her recent procedure to her friends, especially as they’ve often complained about the high prices of procedures in the UK, her British reserve has kept her quiet thus far. She’s attributed her youthful appearance to being rested after her ‘holiday’. “I might tell my best friend”, she smiles, “as she’s been talking about needing a face lift for ages. Perhaps we’ll make the next trip together”.
While Caucasian plastic surgery Korea style might not be on her friends’ agendas just yet, success stories like Carole’s may well become a lot more frequent in the future.