Plastic surgery has always fared well in South Korea. In recent years, however, the trend appears to be on a steep incline fueled primarily by South Korea’s increasingly important medical tourism industry. Medical tourism attracted some 80,000 visitors in 2010, according to Lim In-taek, the head of the Korean Health Ministry’s Bureau of Health Industry. That increase, a staggering 20,000 person difference from 2009, was hardly a product of the Bureau’s historically lackadaisical promotion activity, and has prompted Lim and others in the Bureau to embrace a more hard-hitting promotion strategy for the future.
“We are focusing on the highly profitable patients,” explained Lim according to a recent report by the Christian Science Monitor. Lim explained that the highest paying customers generally come from Mongolia, Russia, Vietnam and Hong Kong, and went on to say that the Bureau hopes to target these and other countries for future promotion efforts. If all goes according to plan, South Korea could be boasting more than 300,000 medical tourists per annum by 2015.
While the Bureau of Health Industry’s promotion efforts are yet to be unveiled, the plastic surgery community in ritzy districts like Gangnam are already ahead of the game. Signs in subways, train stops and on exterior building surfaces push plastic surgery not-so-subtly, promising to “round your rectangular jaw” and even associating successful marriages with cosmetic procedures. Gangnam’s 430 cosmetic clinics have already engaged foreign customers as well, and regularly hire bilingual liaisons to coordinate procedures with high rolling customers from around the world.
However, keep in mind the significant drawbacks of medical tourism for plastic surgery. If you have any issues after your procedure, you’re a long distance from your surgeon and then you’ll remember that classic movie line… “There’s no place like home!”
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