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South Korea aims to cash in on Thai pursuit of beauty

May 22. 2016
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THE IRRESISTIBLY beautiful boys and girls appearing in South Korean films, TV soaps and music videos seems to be one of the key factors that has given rise to the Korean wave across the region, including Thailand.

With the influx of Korean culture through various entertainment outlets, Thai audiences are able to fantasise about becoming TV stars themselves by opting to look like their favourite star by undergoing plastic surgery in South Korea. And this need has offered a huge opportunity to top hospitals in Seoul’s Gangnum district.

“With the rising trend of plastic surgery in the country, we believe that in general, we will see a rise of at least 20 per cent in Thai plastic surgery patients,” Tapaphon Jongrugsak, manager of Jewerly Medical Group, a member of the South Korean Jewerly Plastic Surgery, told The Nation.

Unfortunately, due to patients’ confidentiality requirements, there are no exact official statistics on the number of Thais who have visited South Korea for plastic surgery.

Apart from the Korean wave, which has made plastic surgery in South Korea so popular, Tapaphon suggested that rising plastic surgery prices and scandals in the Kingdom were the other key factor taking Thais to Seoul for beauty-enhancement services.

‘Bad jobs’

“Over the past few decades, local consumers have learned a lesson from the many bad jobs done cheaply by poor quality surgeons. The perception of plastic surgery now is that of high-value investment for more satisfactory returns,” Tapaphon explained.

The Jewerly Medical Group is one of the top plastic surgery hospitals that has made its presence felt in Thailand, while other top five hospitals, including Grand Plastic Surgery and ID Hospital, are also providing consultancy services via overseas hotlines and website, but only in Thai.

Meanwhile, JW Plastic Surgery, another top-ranking beauty clinic from South Korea, opened its first branch in Bangkok recently.

“Plastic surgery is now well received by Thai consumers. [It] is almost becoming a new norm in society,” Aliza Inthaseni, chief executive officer of Prime Medica Group, a partner of JW Plastic Surgery, said.

She added that under this partnership, which also covers Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar, her company aims to open two more branches in the Kingdom this year. Each JW Plastic Surgery clinic requires an investment of at least Bt20 million, and will provide cosmetic surgery for the nose, face, eyes and breasts by well-trained Thai doctors. The standard at these clinics will be the same as that in South Korea.

Prime Medica Group also hopes to have some 30 to 50 plastic surgery patients this year, and aims to transfer some Thai patients and those from neighbouring countries for procedures in South Korea.

Apart from aggressively expanding private hospitals overseas, the South Korean government is also attracting international medical tourists by offering a full tax refund. According to the Health and Welfare Ministry, foreign patients undergoing cosmetic surgery in South Korea from April 1 until March 31, 2017 will get a full refund of the 10-per-cent value-added tax.

The cosmetic and plastic surgery operations covered include double eye-lid, rhinoplasty, breast surgery (reduction/augmentation), liposuction, facelift, facial bone contouring, teeth whitening, laminate, gingivoplasty, orthognathic surgery among others.

Seoul TouchUp, a South Korean government-approved medical tourism agency, said on its official website that judging from the growth in medical tourism, the popularity of plastic surgery in South Korea would continue to rise, at least until 2020.

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