The streets of Apgujeong-dong, Sinsa-dong and near Gangnam Station in affluent southern Seoul are saturated with plastic surgery clinics, but now doctors from other disciplines such as oriental medicine, cardiovascular surgery, general surgery, dentistry, obstetrics and gynecology are setting up shop there too to benefit from the industry.
One oriental medicine clinic offers breast enlargement by acupuncture. Amid growing concerns about breast enlargement through injection or implant, oriental doctors were quick to respond with an alternative treatment.
Among the 26,000 medical clinics nationwide, some 4,400 are run by certified plastic surgeons. But insiders in the medical industry say the number should double if adding other clinics that offer cosmetic surgery and treatments.
One of the reasons for the trend is that it is not covered by the national health insurance and therefore lucrative. There is also a lot of demand. But unless they are certified plastic surgeons, doctors cannot perform plastic surgery. There are, however, ways to get around the rule.
They usually describe their practice as "beauty clinic" or "aesthetic clinic." Then they add "plastic surgery" next to the name of the clinic connected by the word "offering" in very small font in similar color to the background.
In one dental clinic, doctors perform orthognathic surgery realigning jaw bones, and an ear, nose and throat specialist performs cosmetic nose surgery.
More and more patients from China, Japan, Russia, Mongolia, Hong Kong, France and Australia come to Korea for cosmetic surgery. A staffer with a hospital marketing firm said, "Many companies have started giving foreign buyers free plastic surgery for their family or wife, rather than treating them to a big drinks party."