In my recent public talk on eyelid surgery, a patient shared a cautionary tale with the audience. Her friend was impressed with the Korean cosemtic surgery because of the omnipresent advertisements and news showing fantastic outcomes.
So she contacted an agent who promised her they can get her a facelift in a top Korean cosmetic centre. The fee came to USD25,000. Off she went and had the operation in a centre near Seoul which she can’t pronounce the name and the operation was done by a surgeon who was not the one who consulted her in the cinic. The consultation was done through a Chinese interpreter as the doctors could not understand English or Mandarin. She was discharged five days after the operation and flew back home. However, the result was unsatisfactory with unsightly scars. In addition, the wounds got infected and she was admitted to a local hospital for one week of intravenous antibiotic. She contacted the agent who said they can arrange for her to return to Korea for revision but she needed to pay another USD15000. At the end, she had scar revision by a local Malaysian plastic surgeon and the surgeon checked out the name of the centre where she had the operation and found that the centre was not a cosmetic but an orthopaedic centre and the doctors were orthopaedic not cosmetic surgeons.
South Korea has 1,400 registered cosmetic surgery clinics which received over 150,000 clients from other countries in 2012. However, the popularity of Korean cosmetic surgery expertise has given rise to a number of incidents and disputes over the results of the procedures, as well as the clinics' fees and agencies who arranged the trip and the surgery as a package. Some of the clinics were found to be unqualified to perform surgery and some agencies have been found to be running scams. Many patients said they also had inadequate understanding and knowledge about the procedures they underwent.
People who plan to undergo cosmetic surgery in South Korea should go to reputable clinics and research these clinics beforehand through the internet or reputable agencies. As many surgical procedures involve advanced medical terminology and knowledge, many non-Korean patients have problem communicating with Korean doctors even if they can speak English. Therefore, it is essential that patients should select experienced travel agencies with medical knowledge to help with communication.
A recent article from theMalaysian Chinese newspaper Sinchew Daily reported that as many as 90% of theoversea clients who visited Korean Cosmetic Centre were operated by unqualified surgeons. (see below). Many agents used the names of established cosmetic surgeons to attract business but the operations were performed by trainees. Many agents take almost 90% of the fee paid by the clients.