May 26, 2015 12:08
Agents who pocketed up to 90 percent of the fees after setting up Chinese tourists with plastic surgeons here have been indicted by prosecutors. Some of the brokers charged tourists up to 30 times more than the actual price of procedures and pocketed exorbitant commissions on top.
Prosecutors in Seoul's western district indicted 11 agents on charges of violating medical laws. They also slapped travel bans on around 150 others on the same charges.
According to prosecutors, one broker referred 53 Chinese tourists to plastic surgery clinics in the trendy Gangnam district of southern Seoul and in Seodaemun in the western part of the capital from January of 2013 to April of this year. He allegedly pocketed W260 million in commissions (US$1=W1,091).
Medical brokerage is illegal in Korea, and only registered individuals can refer foreign patients to hospitals here.
Most of the agents are fluent in Mandarin since they were Chinese citizens, Chinese nationals who became Korean citizens or children of Chinese and Korean parents.
They attracted potential patients by placing Chinese-language ads on the Internet and enticing them with what they claimed were top-notch Korean clinics.
Other suspects were caught inflating the cost of procedures. One Chinese woman paid W200 million for a breast augmentation procedure that normally costs around W6.5 million.
A prosecutor said, "Brokers charged extra for what they claimed were opportunities to undergo surgery by a master plastic surgeon and Chinese patients fell for the gimmick."
The 150 brokers who have been slapped with travel bans were nabbed after their names were found on account books seized during raids on clinics in Gangnam.
A prosecution spokesman said, "When brokers enter the picture, prices for procedures begin to escalate and the quality of service deteriorates. They are tainting the quality of service Chinese patients can receive at fair prices."
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