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Korea Becomes Regional Plastic Surgery Hub

2005/09/16 Source

An increasing number of Chinese and Japanese women head to Korea for beauty treatments and plastic surgery, encouraged by a vogue for Korean actresses among Asia's young people and a Korean pop culture boom in the region.

Taiwan's Zhongguo Shibao (China Times) said Tuesday that after Korean TV drama "Dae Jang Geum (The Jewel of the Palace)" started airing in Hunan Province early this year, women flocked to plastic surgeons armed with pictures of Lee Young-ae, the star of the soap, asking doctors to make them look like her. They coveted the Korean star's huge eyes, high nose and small mouth, the daily said.

Many others make the trip to Korea itself. A dermatology clinic in southern Seoul sees some 10 Chinese women a month for cosmetic treatment. More than 90 percent of the patients are professionals or family of staff with large Chinese corporation or high-ranking government officials. They range in age from their 20s to 50s. Korean doctors say most Chinese patients kill two birds with one stone, seeking dermatological treatment and plastic surgery together. The clinic has a website in Chinese and gets frequent enquiries from patients in China.

Chinese women are often seen posing for pictures in Apgujeonng-dong, the part of Seoul where many dermatology and plastic surgery clinics are located. According to one cosmetic surgery clinic, some Chinese people regularly come twice a year to get their Botox injections renewed.

Chinese patients will make the trip from Shanghai to Seoul several times if their plastic surgery has to be done in stages.

Some Korean companies trading with China offer free plastic surgery in Korea as a means of consolidating relationships with their trading partners. The head of a cosmetic surgery clinic who gave his name as Park said he operated on two female family members of an executive with a Chinese company whose Korean partner was paying.

The Korean plastic surgery boom is also expanding its reach to Japan. Early this month, Japan's Nihon TV reporters visited a skin clinic in Shinsa-Dong, Seoul to introduce Korean skincare methods to Japanese audiences. "The program's presenter had exactly the same hairstyle and outfits as Korean actor Bae Yong-joon, and filmed the laser treatments that Korean stars had", doctors at the clinic said. It will be aired later this month. "A growing number of Japanese tourists look on the web which skin clinics Korean stars frequent and then visit us", the clinic's director said.

Cynics say the boom won't last. Kim Si-wan, the director of a medical consulting firm OpenDoctors, said, "Chinese plastic surgery skills have developed, so more and more Chinese doctors perform operations using Korean techniques in their hospitals in China". In other words, it is the Chinese clinics that reap the rewards of the Korean Wave when they put up pictures of Korean stars in the reception as a marketing gimmick.

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