Plastic Surgery Clinics in Race to the Bottom

      February 16, 2016 13:50

      Plastic surgery clinics in Seoul's swish Gangnam area have embarked on a race to the bottom as they struggle to survive amid dwindling Korean and Chinese customers.

      According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, of the 36,224 foreigners who had plastic surgery in Korea in 2014, 20,480 or 56.5 percent chose clinics in Gangnam.

      But last year Gangnam's cosmetic clinics saw just 12,000 patients, according to the district office's data, a drop of 40 percent.

      The biggest blow was the outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in the early summer.

      Bigger clinics lead the price war. One clinic with over 30 plastic surgeons is slashing prices by more than half for some treatments. The cost of double eyelids, normally around W1 million, has plunged to W490,000, and the cost of a nose job fell from W3.5 million to W1.39 million (US$1=W1,211).

      Prices for foreigners are usually higher but have been slashed by the same margin. Thus liposuction for foreigners has dropped from W4 million to W2 million at a number of clinics.

      One source claimed that means clinics are actually losing money. "If you consider the cost of hiring interpreters and guide services for foreign patients, hospitals are losing more money the more foreign patient they take on," he said.

      Some argue that this is simply the market regulating itself as there are far too many clinics. According to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, there are 2,054 plastic surgery specialists in Korea, the sixth highest number in the world, but per capita Korea has by far the most with 4.05 per 100,000 people. 

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