Charlatans in South Korea’s booming cosmetic surgery market leave patients shattered

Botched jobs in South Korea’s plastic surgery
Yiming Woo reports.

Kim Bok-soon disliked her nose. She’d heared of a superstitious belief that its shape was a drain on money. She went ahead with plastic surgery despite her family’s objections. She had 15 operations. But when the bandages came off, she knew something was wrong. Only later she found out her doctor was not a plastic surgery specialist. “He ruined my face. This is not a human face. It’s more revolting than monsters or aliens. It is so horrible.”

Another woman, who only gave her surname Park, went to the same doctor. The divorcee wanted to make her breasts bigger in the hope of finding another husband. Instead, after a series of infections, her right breast ended up half the size of the left one. “I regret it too much so I tried to kill myself twice. My mother got me to a hospital. I don’t believe in people any more.”

In South Korea, the world’s largest market for cosmetic surgery, physical perfection is seen as a way to get ahead in marriage and career. Its five billion dollar industry is fuelled by medical tourism. But complaints about botched jobs and unqualified doctors have doubled over the past year. That’s worried the Korean Association of Plastic Surgeons, which wants tighter supervision and stricter advertising rules. “Advertising too much has made people think surgery is a commodity. People now think plastic surgery is like buying stuff somewhere.”
Government data shows 13 out of 1,000 South Koreans have had cosmetic procedures, the highest rate in the world.

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