One in five women in Seoul have gone under the knife as South Korea tops global list of plastic surgery procedures
13:00 GMT, 24 April 2012
Plastic surgery has long been big business in the U.S., but now the trend is sweeping across Asia.
Figures released by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS), suggest that when population is taken into account, South Korea is now the world's largest market for cosmetic procedures.
In a bid to change their looks, 20 per cent of women between the ages of 19 and 49 in Seoul, the country's capital city, admitted they had gone under the knife.
A Korean plastic surgeon demonstrates the double eyelid surgery which makes the eyes appear larger
The most popular surgical procedures include double eyelid surgery – which reduces excess skin in the upper
eyelid to make the eyes appear bigger, lipoplasty – which uses high-frequency sound waves to eliminate fat – and nose jobs.
While on the nonsurgical front, Botox and laser hair removal remain firm favourites.
Overall more than 5.8 million enhancements were performed in Asia during 2010, while just over 4.5 million procedures were carried out in the U.S. the Economist revealed.
It is believed that the rise of South Korea's pop music industry is behind the boom, and many patients visit clinics with photos of celebrities, asking surgeons to emulate nose angle or eyes.
One of the country's largest clinics, JK Plastic Surgery Center founded by Joo Kwon, recently opened a hotel to better serve customers, who spend an average of $17,675 during a single visit.
It is believed that the rise of South Korea's pop music industry is behind the demand for plastic surgery
An increasing amount of clients are non-Koreans, from China, Japan, the Middle East and even Africa, and minsters believe medical tourism will help boost the Korean economy.
However Mr Kwon warned that young people should be cautious when seeking such operations.
'I think South Korea has a very rigorous and narrow definition of beauty because we’re an ethnically homogenous society and everyone looks pretty much the same. It is also related to low self-esteem.
'I think the situation will somewhat moderate in future as society becomes more diverse. But it will take quite a bit of time until we get there,' he told AFP.
Last year, the Education Ministry issued a booklet warning Korean high school
students of 'plastic surgery syndrome', citing Michael Jackson and a
local woman whose addiction to plastic surgery left her with a
grotesquely swollen face.
But many Koreans remain unperturbed by the risks involved. City worker Seonghee Yang, 25, who is from Seoul but now based in London told MailOnline: 'I think Koreans see cosmetic procedures as 'enhancements'. People see it as bettering yourself and celebrities are happy to talk about it.
'It is worrying that this can lead to extreme cases but if the surgery helps people with their confidence then I don't personally see anything wrong with it.'
Elsewhere, the ISAPS survey revealed that there are seven times more buttock operations in Brazil than the top-25 country average, and five times more vaginal rejuvenations.
While in Greece, penis enlargements are performed ten times more often than the average, with 592 such procedures carried out during 2010.
For more information visit: www.economist.com