October 15, 2009 13:24
Women walking down the streets of the Apgujeong-dong or Sinsa-dong areas of Gangnam with bandages around their noses or eyes speaking English or Chinese have become a common sight. They make the long trip for cosmetic surgery in the clinics of those areas, mostly from China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam or other Asian countries.
One plastic surgery clinic in Gangnam set aside an entire floor for Chinese patients, testifying to the rise of that part of Seoul as the hub of cosmetic surgery in Asia.
These patients are wealthy enough to visit Korea for a week at a time for treatment and spend between W1 million to W3 million (US$1=W1,164) on plastic surgery, and about the same on clothes, accessories and cosmetics. Travel agents say these visitors spend twice as much money as ordinary Japanese tourists.
The rising popularity of Korean plastic surgeons among Asian women can be attributed to the so-called Korean Wave, riding on the popularity of Korean TV dramas, movies and music in Asia. There are apparently many fans of Korean stars who save to have plastic surgery here. Some Chinese women who dream of working in the entertainment industry even undergo surgery to look like Korean celebrities, which includes facial bone contouring. Doctors say they insist on treatment in Korean clinics although they charge two to three times more than hospitals in China. Korean companies that do business in China even offer their Chinese clients paid cosmetic surgery trips to Korea.
The Korean brand of beauty has evidently grown into a source of power for Korea's national competitiveness. All of this has contributed to a 33 percent rise in the number of foreign patients in Korea this year.
The country must tap into the potential offered by this industry. It needs a strategy to link this trend to its beauty industry as a whole, much as the Champs Elysees in Paris evokes images of haute couture and is the source of new fashion trends and luxury goods exported around the world.
Hollywood, too, is world famous not only for its movie studios but for cosmetic surgery, dermatology clinics and stores selling luxury goods. The new cosmetic surgery techniques and beauty products that are created there are exported around the world.
The posh stretch of Seoul connecting Sinsa-dong, Apkujeong-dong and Cheongdam-dong is home to dermatology and plastic surgery clinics, fitness centers and other beauty-related businesses. Fashion designers also own boutiques there, while other high-end stores sell accessories and cosmetics. It can very well be called the Korean beauty district. If this area can be developed into a symbol of Korea's beauty industry, it has the potential to become an internationally recognized location.
Right now, the Pusan International Film Festival is in full swing. Many movie stars and fans from across Asia have converged on the city also spelled Busan to enjoy the festival, enabling the port to reap the benefits of its image as East Asia's movie capital. By the same token, Seoul's beauty district could become the center of the Asian beauty industry if businesses can compete and thrive there, creating new products and trends.
By Kim Chul-joong from the Chosun Ilbo's News Desk
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