August 24, 2018 11:06
Vietnamese tourists are flocking to Korea for plastic surgery. Young Vietnamese women enamored of K-pop come to have themselves chiseled into the strange pointy doll's faces of the starlets, splashing out W3-10 million per trip (US$1=W1,122).
That is higher than the per capita national income of Vietnam last year of US$2,385, but the middle class is flush with cash in a booming economy.
According to the Korea Health Industry Development Institute, the number of Vietnamese patients increased eightfold from 921 in 2010 to 7,447 last year.
On Aug. 16, a 30-year-old Vietnamese woman visited a plastic surgery clinic in Sinsa-dong in Seoul's swish Gangnam. She spent W8.5 million, including medical costs, accommodation and air tickets.
"Plastic surgery tourism to Korea is a trend among young Vietnamese women," she said. "I want to have a slim face and a prominent nose, just like a Korean girl group member."
Big plastic surgery clinics in Gangnam have hired Vietnamese translators, and Vietnamese pop songs vie with K-pop in the waiting rooms.
Some clinics even provide food to patients from nearby Vietnamese restaurants. A Vietnamese staffer at a plastic clinic in Sinsa-dong said, "Five years ago, fewer than 10 Vietnamese patients arrived each month. But there are too many Vietnamese recently for me to handle alone, so the clinic has employed another Vietnamese translator."
A clinic in Apgujeong-dong, Gangnam said, "The number of Vietnamese patients has doubled since last year, and they now outnumber the Chinese."
Clinics turned their attention to Southeast Asia as the Chinese market dried up last year due to an unofficial boycott. That has also boosted business for medical tourism agencies, which often rely on viral marketing because most Vietnamese patients trust recommendations from acquaintances.
Huong Nguyen at a medical tour agency in Vietnam said, "Many Vietnamese women plan to visit Korea after seeing comments on plastic surgery on YouTube or social media."
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