New S. Korean law lures more tourists seeking plastic surgery

December 2, 2015


By Lee Kyung-min

The government will improve safety for foreign medical tourists and help hospitals invite more patients from overseas after the National Assembly agreed to pass a related bill.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare said Wednesday that the rival parties decided to pass the Medical Services Law that has been pending for more than a year.

The bill is part of the Park Geun-hye administration’s measures to boost the economy.

It comes amid growing demand for better regulations regarding medical tourists visiting Korea.

The number of such patients is increasing rapidly by 36.9 percent annually, with an accumulated 1 million coming to receive services between 2009 and 2014, according to the ministry.

The new law is aimed at strengthening legal protection for foreign patients.

It calls for the government to crack down on cosmetic surgery clinics hiring illegal brokers, and provide better mediation for patients suffering from side effects. Medical institutions will also be gradually obliged to have insurance.

In order to help guarantee transparency of medical costs and clinic operation, the ministry will make public the average fees of medical treatments, especially plastic surgery which attracts more than half of all medical tourists coming here.

It will also disclose the names of clinics receiving high evaluations, the training level of medical staff and their emergency response capability including equipment installed in operating rooms.

Doctors are required to fully explain the side effects of surgery prior to obtaining patients’ consent, and to wear a name tag at all times to prevent sub-standard, or “shadow” doctors from performing surgery.

The names of hospitals meeting such criteria will be shared online and provided to local governments as well as other foreign countries including China. Chinese patients account for more than 40 percent of the total medical tourists.

The new rule will also assist medical institutions that plan to operate in other countries, including offering tax benefits. It will also lay the groundwork for cooperation between the government and private sector to form a control tower for comprehensive support in the future.

The government expects the new bill to create some 110,000 jobs in the next two years and have a 6 trillion won ($515 million) economic effect.


  1. Horangih Gomtoki

    December 2, 2015 at 11:47 AM

    Korea should outlaw plastic surgery. It is a crime against Koreanness.

    Japanese tried to wipe out Korean history and language.

    Plastic surgery and hair-dyeing encourage Koreans to reject their own genetic traits and heritage in favor of ‘white looks’.

    I can see how people with serious deformations might want plastic surgery. But most people who get plastic surgery have nothing wrong with them. They are brainwashed by globalism that makes them want to look like ‘white western celebrities and models’.

    This is a crime against Korean-ness.

    For Koreans to bitch about how Japanese tried to wipe out Korean language and history but then to promote plastic surgery as a means to wipe out Korean facial genetics is totally ludicrous.

    Koreans should really focus on geographic surgery to reunite Korea. Korea was severed and scarred into two separate nations by the joint US and USSR invasion in 1945. Korea wasn’t liberated but invaded by two great powers and divided in two.

    What Korea needs is political surgery to unite the two halves.

    Koreans need to reject plastic surgery and the cult of hair dyeing to look ‘blonde’ or ‘white’, which are crimes against Korean-ness. Unless Koreans are willing to accept what they are, they have no pride, no dignity. If Koreans slavishly want to look like other races and use surgery and hair-dyeing to be the Michael Jacksons of Asia, they are fools and idiots. And mental slaves.

    It is good for Koreans to appreciate and admire the natural beauty of other races, but Koreans need to accept their own natural looks and beauty. If Koreans can’t do that, they are imitative slaves of globalism.

    • John

      December 3, 2015 at 4:14 PM

      You’re being completely ridiculous when you say Koreans are losing their “cultural heritage” by going under the knife. That’s like saying I’m rejecting my family because I’ve changed my clothes. Am I not still the same person underneath? Have I completely redefined my identity because I’ve changed my clothes? My personality is still there. My culture is still there. I’ve just changed my external appearance.

      Beauty standards exist everywhere in the globe, regardless of who I talk to or where I go. Everyone will always want to look a certain way, at a certain time. However, the cultural beauty expectations will change with time: to say that Koreans are rejecting their culture because they’re going under the knife today is something absurd. War torturing was also a “cultural legacy” for the Germans. Naziism was also a cultural legacy: do I have to endorse war torture and naziism because my culture once supported it? Similarly, do I have to completely support my “cultural legacy” of looks (which, IMO is also ridiculous: how do you sum up a multitude of cultures all over the peninsula into one, supposedly unique “Koreanness” generic look? Everyone has a different family who’s provided them with different facial traits, some better off than others) and hypnotize myself into believing “oh, since my ancestors gave me a certain set of tools, I should only use these tools”? If today’s culture demands that a certain look be “in”, and if a procedure that only requires a bit of cash can dramatically improve my quality of life, why not go for it?

      Korean society does have a tendency to be streamlined into one “look”, but in no way is that “look” the “Western Look.” Nobody I know has gone under the knife to look more “White.” They go under the knife to conform to KOREAN beauty standards. Are the plastic surgery adverts in Apgujeong promoting “Angelina-Jolie-like” cheekbones, or “Adam-Levine-like” nose? NO: there are adverts promoting eye-widening surgery and chin-reduction surgeries, which, though both share some characteristics with “Western” beauty standards, is a whole different ball park. They are traits that Koreans, and to extension ALL Asians, and to extension ALL of the world (e.g. small face), seek. And, as I’ve mentioned above, these beauty standards are always going to prevail in society, in one way or another. The only difference between Korea and the rest of the world is that Korea has the financial and scientific resources to change individuals into how they want to look, regardless of how you may argue that “some cultures think better of their genetic toolbox”.

      Your argument about dignity or pride also doesn’t make sense. So, if I reject a certain aspect of my culture, am I an insecure, shameful soul who should seek medical attention? Should I go seek psychological treatment because I don’t love Naziism and don’t support the Spanish Inquisition, even though my family has ancestry from both cultures?

      And by the way, there is NO relationship between Koreans bitching about Japanese colonization and then going to plastic surgery clinics. The two are NOT mutually exclusive. If I were a Korean, I could bitch all I want about colonization (and human oppression and language destruction and political puppeteering) and still be free to modify the way I look whilst embracing my cultural legacy as a child of the Joseon dynasty.

      And don’t even get me started about reunification. That’s a much larger issue with the growing political tensions between North Korea and the South Korean government. It’s not as easy as saying “1+1=2.” You have to think about the logistics of having to suddenly adopt 25 million people (a large majority probably brainwashed by North Korean propaganda and anti-Korean sentiments, not to mention a lack of understanding of the modern world and our dependence on technology today) into a libertarian democracy, dividing power amongst the parties involved (South Korean government, North Korean government, the U.S.A because it’s a major South Korean ally, and the U.N., who remains in primary control of the DMZ today.), and ensuring political stability (which is a whole other issue in itself: the political parties in Seoul, the political factions in North Korea, the political parties in the U.S., and NATO). And to suggest that the Korean government isn’t doing enough for reunification efforts would also be foolish: the largest ministry in the Korean government IS THE MINISTRY OF UNIFICATION, which most recently organized a diplomatic trip to Kaesong for an archaeological excavation site. Your argument that the Koreans aren’t doing enough for unification and only focusing on their looks is invalid.

      Clearly, you’re just trying to manipulate the general public into believing that the Korean people are hypocrites who complain about Japanese oppression and then go change their looks, rejecting their culture in doing so (? wtf?), whilst drowning in an ocean of “pridelessness” and “diginity-lessness”. Check your facts, try opening your worldview a bit, and reconsider your definition of “culture”.

  2. Dr Gavin Sandercoe

    December 7, 2015 at 8:26 AM

    There are two major reasons for why people travel to get plastic surgery; results and security. Both of these are made attractive in South Korea, which has made it one of the most popular hubs for getting plastic surgery all over the world.

  3. Erik Miles

    December 7, 2015 at 9:06 AM

    With the miracles of plastic surgery that are being explicitly advertised everywhere, people are attracted to South Korea because they want similar results. More and more advancements are being made in this industry to allure an even larger population towards them.

  4. j kawa

    January 12, 2016 at 1:39 AM

    How can I email the Ministry of Health and Welfare department that is overseeing these clinics of plastic surgery? I have several concerns since my surgery in September. I was not informed of side effects prior to my surgery and I believe something was injected intracranially, which is illegal in the United States Serious side effects resulted. After my consultation, I never saw the head surgeon again. An unidentified doctor with a mask on showed up late to perform the procedure. I write often to Grand, but Yaebeen there is elusive in answering me.I would like to report my concerns to a higher office to review this “hospital.”