Business / Industries

Sharp rise in seeking the trendy South Korean 'idol' look

By Emma Gonzalez and Lu Haoting (China Daily) Updated: 2015-05-08 07:06

Sharp rise in seeking the trendy South Korean 'idol' look

Ready for the makeover. A plastic surgery clinic in Seoul, South Korea. [Photo/Xinhua]

The increasing popularity in China of South Korean TV dramas and music is resulting, say experts, in a spectacular rise in the number of Chinese traveling to their neighboring country to have plastic surgery.

According to the latest figures from the Chinese Association of Plastics and Aesthetics, some 56,000 Chinese people traveled there last year to go under the knife for cosmetic reasons-a considerable rise on the 16,000 who traveled the year before, say South Korean health ministry numbers.

The burgeoning medical tourism industry is centered on the southern Seoul district of Gangnam, a high-profile neighborhood packed with luxury shops and a growing list of plastic surgeons.

The South Korean government now says it expects the sector to attract a million cosmetic tourists a year by 2020, with Chinese travelers representing the largest segment.

Although the price of surgical procedures in South Korea is generally more expensive than in China, experts suggest the strong reputation of doctors there has convinced people to make the trip for a nip and a tuck.

But the destination has also grown in popularity, they say, because more Chinese have become obsessed with copying the look of their entertainment industry idols.

Chinese travel agents have even joined in the frenzy by offering plastic surgery-based packages, which also include several days of sightseeing in the price.

One agent said that it is not uncommon now to see Chinese females wandering the flashy streets of Gangnam with post-surgery bandages over their faces, as they shop.

The most popular procedures by tourists are said to be double-eyelid surgeries, which help them gain Caucasian-style eyes, and nose jobs to obtain more prominent nose bridges.

But more extreme procedures also include facial contouring, to achieve an oval shape through shaving or chopping away bones.

"The cost of a double-eyelid surgery is between 8,000 and 10,000 yuan ($1,290 and $1,620)," explained a representative from the travel agency

The agency has already partnered with several well-known South Korean clinics to offers special promotions during Chinese holidays, with the Lunar New Year now becoming the busiest time of the year.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, one young Chinese professional in her 30s told China Daily she had decided to travel to South Korea with two of her closest friends to undergo the double-eyelid procedures, along with some skin treatments.

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