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Prosperous Chinese head here for plastic surgery

May 31,2004
Prosperity in China has created a new class that apparently wants to be not only rich, but also beautiful.
One beneficiary of the trend: Korean hospitals and clinics offering plastic surgery. Doctors are seeing rising numbers of Chinese customers coming to Korea to have work done on their eyelids, noses and lips.
In a recent e-mail written to Medifriend, a local medical consulting company, a Chinese woman named Mrs. Ryu thanked the company for introducing her to a Korean doctor. She paid for a double eyelid operation at the beginning of the year at a hospital in the Gangnam area and went back to China afterward.
A Medifriend official said that about 20 to 30 Chinese a day call the company for advice and about 20 percent end up coming to Korea. “We started this business at the beginning of the year and so far have had about 100 Chinese people come over,” said the official. After the popularity of Korean television dramas in China, it seems that medical services may become the next Korean item in demand there.
Perhaps most surprising is that, according to doctors, the cost of plastic surgery in Korea is three to five times higher than it is in China. Chinese apparently have greater confidence in Korean cosmetic surgery skills.
Kam Yong-jin, who operates a travel company, estimates that Chinese tourists who come for plastic surgery spend four to five times more money than other Chinese tourists.
Despite what appears to be a new trend from which Korean hospitals and the tourist industry could receive a boost, the central government and the provincial governments have taken a hands-off approach.
“We know of cases where potential clients gave up coming because there wasn’t any supporting service in place such as interpreters and guides,” said Kim Dong-il, a director of the Baek Plastic Surgery Clinic in Busan.


by Lee Seung-nyeong


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