Oppa Gangnam Style, indeed! Seoul, South Korea’s elite Gangnam district is home to hundreds of plastic surgery clinics, and plastic surgery tourism to the Asian hotspot has increased more than fivefold since 2009. Last year, 15,428 surgeries were performed on tourists, according to South Korea’s health ministry.
“I’ve had patients from China and Japan since the late 1990s,” says Kim Byung Gun, whose BK Plastic Surgery employs six surgeons, as well as 30 interpreters speaking Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, English, and other languages in order to better accommodate their international clientele. “It’s grown more rapidly since, because of the staggering demand for plastic surgery among Koreans.”
In a 2011 poll (performed by the Seoul city government), 32 percent of respondents said they would be willing to have plastic surgery—a sharp increase from 2009’s 21.5 percent. According to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, South Korea has the highest plastic surgery rate of any country in the world, with 649,938 procedures being performed in 2011.
South Korean clinics provide myriad special services for visitors, including as airport pickups, hotel accommodations, and websites, e-mail, and video consultations in a wide variety of languages. According to Lee Joon, marketing director for Seoul TouchUp, all-inclusive plastic surgery trips cost an average of $14,000. It costs money to look as good as your favorite Korean celebs!