“After 3 botched trips to Korea and spending $60,000 I was left to suffer with permanent, irreparable damage to my face.” Chen Yili, a Shenzhen resident said distraughtly. Her life has turned upside down since she put her trust in a South Korean plastic surgeon five years ago.
She describes her face as a broken mess by pointing out all the flaws the surgery has done: Her left eyelid is bigger than her right, a Silhouette threadlike procedure- a new face-lift technique- made her cheek sink in, fake facial fillers was injected in her face that caused numerous scars, her skin was pulled super tight around the hairline that makes the scar visible, the inside of her left nostril sags and bleeds that includes the right side of her chin where the skin sags when she talks.
She is just one of thousands of Chinese visiting South Korea each year hoping to improve their looks. But as those numbers increase, so are complaints of failed operations, dodgy middlemen and "shadow doctors".
In one court case, it's claimed that the advertised doctor slipped out of the operating roomonce the patient was under the anesthetic and the job was then botched by the replacement surgeon.
|blotched surgey- before and after|
The Korean Ministry of Health states that 300,000 foreign nationals visited South Korea in 2015 for medical treatment, an 11 % increase on 2014 and plastic surgery was the most sought after service. The biggest source was China, followed by the USA, Russia and Japan. 24% of Chinese patients sought cosmetic surgery. 28% of Russians and 23% of those from the USA had hospital treatment.
Yet, among the district’s hundreds of clinics, not every single one of them is safe. As much as advertisements around subways or buses have led you to believe, it’s a dangerous world in Gangnam Street. It’s dangerous in the sense of there being too many options to choose from, leaving one to wonder who is really trustworthy. Advertisements boast beautiful jaws from jawline surgery and large, even eyes can be achieved in Seoul. Jaw surgery is no picnic, with major complications extending all the way to permanent nerve damage.
“The reason I chose Korea for my beauty trip was because I am Asian, and the clinics in Korea advertised that they “Specialized in Asian Beauty.” People say Korea is the best place for plastic surgery in the world.” Chen Yili explained.
In May 2013, Korean authorities arrested 11 illegal brokers (the middle man) on charges of violating medical laws and banned another 150 from leaving the country by cancelling their passports to prevent them from scamming any other customers. Most of the brokers were Chinese nationals or Korean Chinese. Their crime was stealing up to 90% of the fees as their commission, Yahoo reported. Ms Chen, for instance, was introduced to the clinic in Korea by a business partner. She forked out 165,000 yuan ($36,000) for operations on her jaw, lips and nose - and later discovered the price was over 5 times what local patients paid.
If you are considering coming to Korea for plastic surgery, you must thoroughly research on safe methods and understand the laws on how to avoid being scammed. Korea has provided websites for medical tourists to overcome this situation:
-South Korea's Health Ministry has since introduced a platform to report illegal brokers on the official medical tourism website www.medicalkorea.or.kr and added a new list of estimated costs of popular procedures in a bid to prevent overcharging.
-Korea Tourism Organization http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/index.kto has launched a new medical tourism insurance and assistance service specifically designed for international tourists in collaboration with Dongbu Insurance that started in April 2015. https://www.idongbu.com/Index.jsp?url=/EnMain.do?lang=eng. The insurance offers compensation for medical bills that come with any accidents leading to injury or even death that occur while traveling in Korea (up to 50 million won), the cost of the first seven days of a stay in a hospital (up to 200,000 won per day if needed extension stay), and offers financial services for an unplanned extension of stay due to a medical dispute. The insurance also provides interpretation services to facilitate communication between doctor and patient, as well as resolve any medical disputes that may arise.
-The government has also imposed a new rule that only board-certified plastic surgeons - about 2,200 of them - can operate on foreigners, even though current laws allow all doctors (including general practitioners) to perform plastic surgery in the country. Those found treating foreigners illegally could face jail.
-A new law was implemented from April 1st 2016 to March 31st 2017 that the procedures applicable for tax reimbursements include double eye-lid surgery, rhinoplasty, breasts augmentation or reduction surgery excluding reconstruction after mastectomy, liposuction, face lift, facial bone contouring, teeth bleaching, laminating and gingivoplasty and orthognathic surgery. After the pilot period, if the system proves effective in encouraging more medical tourists to Korea, the government will consider extending the term.
<© Korea Biomedical Review, All rights reserved.>