Channel NewsAsia

Plastic surgery patients in S Korea get certs to prove identity

Asian women are travelling to South Korea for plastic surgery, but some face problems getting back home after going under the knife. Thus, some clinics are issuing certificates to explain why they look different from the picture on their passports.

SEOUL: South Korea has become the home of plastic surgery, with one in five women in Seoul estimated to have undergone a procedure.

Women from other parts of Asia, particularly China, are travelling to Seoul to get the ‘Korean look’. But some are having problems getting back into their home countries after going under the knife.

Ms Zhang Han, 26, took a few days off from work in Beijing to come to South Korea, hoping for a prettier look. "My main objective is to look prettier but I was worried about the quality of surgery and the outcome. So I did a lot of research online but was worried about undergoing surgery in China. My friends go to Korea frequently and they told me the quality of cosmetic surgery is very good, that's why I'm here,” she said.

Ms Zhang said she believes it is safer to get the job done in South Korea rather than back home in China, and is undergoing facial shaving to help her face look smaller.

Her doctor explains that in such cases, the clinic will issue her a certificate explaining why she looks different from the picture on her passport. Foreign patients who have undergone plastic surgery have had trouble passing through immigration points at airports in South Korea and at home.

Ms Ko Ra-yong, president of iStar Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Clinic, said: "Airports check the pictures to see if they are the same. In cases where they are different, we issue the certificates before they leave, and we say that this person received this surgery, to explain the difference."

The clinic issues certificates stating the patient's details and the kind of surgery it performed. Some other clinics even show pictures of the patients’ faces before and after the procedures.

In recent years, people from all over the world - especially from Southeast Asia - have flocked to South Korea to visit competitively priced plastic surgeons with expertise in the ‘Korean look’, and most want to get it done in upscale Gangnam in Seoul.

Latest data show that four out of 10 plastic surgery clinics in South Korea are based in Gangnam. It is common to see women walking the streets of Gangnam donning face masks - a clear sign they have had some kind of facial surgery done.

Ms Byun Hae-kyung, beauty director at iStar Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Clinic, said: "They are not shy about it. In fact they walk around with red faces in a way to show off. To show that they take care of themselves."

However, more men are also getting surgical procedures to look better. The latest trend among men is to undergo surgery to get six-pack abs.