August 01, 2015 07:55
A growing number of young people are heading to ear, nose and throat surgery clinics in Gangnam to undergo surgery to change their voices.
Some are aspiring singers in their teens who want to be on reality TV show, while others are college students or jobseekers who want to work as TV presenters or flight attendants. Websites about plastic surgery are filled with questions about the procedure and accounts by people who had it.
The principle behind the procedure is simple: a tiny amount of botox is injected into the muscles controlling vocal chords to paralyze them, which can suppress high-pitched sounds.
"Once the muscles are paralyzed, a person's voice sounds clear and deep for about a month or two," a doctor said.
The botox is injected into a patient's neck without painkillers. The amount used in the procedure is 1/50 to 1/100 of the amount used in a wrinkle-freeing procedure.
A Chosun Ilbo reporter sought the consultation of ear, nose and throat specialists in the Gangnam and Seocho districts and found that procedures cost between W300,000 and W400,000 and take just 10 to 20 minutes (US$1=W1,172).
One specialist played a recording of the voice of one patient who received the procedure and suggested that the reporter's voice does not sound as clear and recommended botox injections. "If you have a job interview lined up or have to deliver a presentation, one injection will give you instant results," the doctor claimed.
Clinics also offer surgery to give patients a higher vocal range at a cost of W3 million to W3.5 million. The vocal chords are attached to a piece of horseshoe-shaped cartilage called thyroid cartilage. Cutting a little bit out and dropping it back shortens and stiffens the chords and makes it possible to produce high-pitched sounds.
The procedure requires general anesthetic and lasts between an hour and an hour and a half. But ear, nose and throat specialists at major hospitals warn against it since the safety of the operation has yet to be proven. They also warn that repetitive botox injections could paralyze the muscles in surrounding areas.
One aspiring singer in his 20s posted a message on a website saying his voice actually worsened four days after a botox injection. Sun Dong-il, a professor at Seoul St. Mary's Hospital, warned the cartilage procedure can cause various side effects such as cysts forming around the treated areas.
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