South Korea Plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to Chinese patients


Cosmetic surgery, pervasive in South Korea, is now the must-do activity for many Chinese visitors.
The lights stay on all night in the Gangnam district, where plastic surgery clinics line the streets. Signs in Chinese beckon visitors. Once they are inside, translators stand ready.
Seizing an opportunity to tap the steady and ubiquitous flow of China’s newly rich who are traveling overseas, South Korea’s government is promoting the country as a place to shop, eat, stay — and perhaps get a nip and a tuck.
And the Chinese, mainly women, are visiting in droves for body modifications, from the minor, like double eyelid surgery, to the extreme, like facial restructuring. While plastic surgery is common in China, South Korean hospitals are perceived to be safer and more hygienic, albeit pricier.
“When the Chinese come to the stores, they empty them,” said Kim Soo-jin, a representative at the medical tourism unit of the Korean tourism office. “If we can turn them into medical tourists, they are more likely to stay longer. They will eat one more meal, buy one more thing and go to another site.”
The South Korean government is setting aside as much as $4 million a year to help promote the medical tourism industry, which is dominated by plastic surgeons. It expects one million medical tourists a year by 2020, up from 211,218 last year, with Chinese travelers representing the largest segment.
Tour operators sell travel deals that include shopping, sightseeing and plastic surgery. Premier packages include a stretch limo for the ride from the hotel to the clinic. Licensed brokers take a cut of the total surgery costs, up to 35 percent.
While prices for tourists vary widely, a basic double eyelid surgery can cost more than $900. A plastic surgery trip, with hotel and other activities, can run around $15,000. In general, it is more expensive than in China.
“I’ve seen them coming in with bags of money,” said Dr. Ro Young-woo, a founding partner of a South Korean franchise chain of clinics called Oracle Clinic.
Popular culture has had an influence. Korean television shows and movies are wildly successful in China. Patients often take magazine photos to their consultations.
“We see more assertiveness in Chinese patients than Korean patients,” Dr. Kim Eung-sam, a plastic surgeon and director at the Hershe clinic in Seoul. “They want to look like certain Korean celebrities.”
During their trip, Ms. Liu, Ms. Wu and Ms. Jin planned to see the sights featured in their favorite Korean TV show, “My Love From the Star.” They bought clothes like those worn by the show’s female star, Jeon Ji-hyun. Ms. Jin asked for the same nose as another famous Korean actress, Han Ga-in.
South Korea is building on a tradition of cosmetic surgery. A recent study by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery estimated that South Korea had the highest rate of cosmetic surgery per capita of any country in the world. Seoul TouchUp, a government-approved medical tourism agency, states in its marketing materials that “Korean women are arguably more objectified by their male counterparts than any other women in the world.”
“In terms of advertising it’s very much exaggerated,” says Dr. Cha Sang-myun, the chairman of the Korean Association of Plastic Surgeons, which is calling for tighter industry regulations. “You see it everywhere: on the subways, on the buses and even in the movie theaters.”
Some Korean doctors are voicing concern. The flood of demand has spawned a cluster of unlicensed hospitals, brokers and unqualified doctors, according to Dr. Cha of the plastic surgeon association. “If there are 10 plastic surgeons out there, there are another 100 who are not qualified,” he said.
And the procedures that many Chinese tourists seek come with the highest rate of complications. Some undergo several procedures at once. Dr. Kim at Braun described how one recent patient booked a series of surgeries — double jaw, facial contour, nose job, double eyelid, liposuction and a fat graft.
One of the most popular procedures is facial contouring, which involves altering the shape of the face by shaving and removing bone from the cheeks, jaw and chin. Double jaw surgery is a more radical and popular version that requires realigning the top and bottom jaws.
Chinese patients undergo these painful surgeries to alter their faces into a V-shape, giving them highly coveted delicate features. They are also popular among Korean men and women.
“I think they have gone totally overboard,” said Dr. Walter Peters, a professor of surgery at the University of Toronto. Radical jaw surgery in the United States and Canada, he added, “could sometimes be done for cosmetic reasons but it is usually done for developmental or post-traumatic reasons.”
Ms. Jin had already had her nose done once in China. “The more I do it, the more I become interested in it,” she said.
“Many friends around me have gone under the knife,” she added. “Since my friends have become more beautiful, I think I should become more beautiful.”

Source: The New York Times, article by Su- Hyun Lee


Thailand Medical tourism now targeting high end Chinese patients

PIerre Gervois Conference in Thailand-July 2013High-end Chinese health and wellness visitors are to be the primary niche-market focus of the annual Medical Tourism Fam Trip to be organised by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and the Thai Spa Association between 13-18 August, 2013.

More than 80 registrations from all over the world have been received for the Fam Trip which will be held under the theme of promoting Thailand as a “Super Quality Medical and Wellness Tourism” destination.

The final list of invitees will include international buyers, tour agencies and global media, mostly from China. The applications are now being whetted and finalised in order to ensure that only the most productive and serious buyers/media are included.

Mrs. Vilaiwan Twichasri, Deputy Governor for Tourism Products and Business of the TAT said, “This fam trip is part of our overall strategy to focus on high-spending, long-staying niche markets. Health and wellness tourism is a key component of this, especially as Thailand has the necessary products and service standards to cater to this growing market.” She said that the Fam Trip has been designed in a way that it will provide information updates, product inspection and do business.

Pierre Gervois Conference Bangkok 2013Mr. Pierre Gervois, CEO of China Elite Focus and guest speaker, said ”Thailand has a huge, untapped opportunity with its excellent medical services for Chinese patients. It’s time for the Thai Medical and wellness industries to market themselves proactively in China”

Information on trends and facilities will be supplied in an open discussion with prominent Thai medical practitioners, including Dr. Sanguan Kunaporn, a plastic surgeon from Phuket International Hospital; Somjate Manipalviratn, M.D., a fertility treatment expert from Superior A.R.T., and Dr. Anongnuth Chavalithamrong, M.D., an anti-aging physician from the Add Life Centre.

Buyers will also attend a business-matching meeting with 50 Thai sellers from hospitals, clinics and spas. Both functions will be held on 13 August 2013 at the Centara Grand Hotel at CentralWorld.

Advertisement Tower - Gervois Hotel Rating May 2017 featuring Pierre GervoisAfter that, the fam trip participants will visit various health and wellness spots in Bangkok, Phuket, and Hua Hin. The itinerary will include the I-Sawan Spa at Hyatt Erawan, a world-class spa in Bangkok; Preventive Medical Check Up at Villa Medica, and an overnight stay at The Barai, a luxury spa in Hua Hin and the winner of the Asian-Pacific Best Spa Award.

Mr. Krod Rojanastien, President of the Thai Spa Association, stated that “Wellness Tourism is very popular among the hi-end Chinese market. This year, we have organised a Fam Trip specifically for this market and will promote luxury Wellness and Beauty products which target the profile and behavior of this market.”

He said he was certain that Chinese buyers would be impressed by the overall quality and exclusivity of Wellness Tourism in Thailand which, along with the famous Thai hospitality, has impressed medical tourists from around the globe.