K-pop driving Singaporeans to Seoul for nip-and-tuck

SINGAPORE - Ever wished you had the doe eyes and slender jawline of South Korean stars like actress Kim Tae Hee or singer Im Yoona from pop group Girls' Generation?

Spurred by the Korean Wave, or Hallyu, more Singaporeans are headed to Seoul for a quick getaway, and to get some nip-and- tuck done along the way.

The Korean Tourism Organisation told My Paper that the number of Singaporeans getting plastic surgery in South Korea has increased from 239 patients in 2010 to 468 in 2011.

Patients from Singapore are drawn there by a combination of factors that include competitive prices, reputation for quality, and, of course, the allure of the Korean Wave.

Four aesthetic-medicine institutions in Seoul that My Paper contacted said that their Singaporean clientele tend to be women. Three out of four said they are typically in their 20s to 40s.

The institutions are the Wonjin Beauty Medical Group, Grand Plastic Surgery, BK Plastic Surgery Hospital and Hershe Plastic Surgery Clinic.

Wonjin noted that the number of patients it sees from Singapore has increased by about three-fold since 2011.

Grand Plastic Surgery attended to fewer than 10 patients from Singapore before 2010, compared to 15 to 20 Singaporean patients that it recorded last year.

The institutions said that some patients from Singapore go prepared. They are armed with photographs of South Korean celebrities and ask to have facial features similar to those of their idols.

South Korean idols that are often used as references are actresses Kim Tae Hee and Song Hye Kyo, and the leggy lasses from girl group Girls' Generation, said the institutions.

The top procedures among Singaporeans are double-eyelid jobs, nose augmentation and facial contouring.

A 26-year-old Singaporean who wanted to be known only as Melissa said she is planning a trip to Seoul in July "to get a nicer face". She admits that the Korean concept of beauty - as portrayed in their drama serials and pop music - influenced her "to a certain degree".

She intends to go to a clinic in Seoul's famous Gangnam district for a non-invasive procedure to lift her eyelids and to have fat grafting done on her face.

The latter usually involves harvesting fat from a part of the body, purifying it and then injecting it into the face.

She said: "Fat grafting will give my face a more 3-D look because my forehead is flat and the areas under my cheeks are sunken."

Prices for such procedures in South Korea are slightly cheaper than in Singapore. For instance, a double-eyelid job here ranges from $2,000 to $5,000, while in Seoul, it ranges from about $1,500 to $3,600.

Another Singaporean told My Paper that she forked out about $1,800 for a double-eyelid operation in Seoul six years ago.

The 40-year-old banking executive said: "I asked around about the prices of such procedures in Singapore before I went. It's quite expensive if you go to a good surgeon here."

But there are risks in having such operations done abroad.

Besides issues such as a language barrier and brief consultation sessions, prominent Singapore plastic surgeon Woffles Wu warns that redress for botched jobs can be problematic and costly.

He said: "If something goes wrong, at least (the surgeon here) can look after the patient. If you (had it done) overseas, you have to fly back to see them.

"The whole idea is that you were trying to do the surgery on the cheap, but in the end you'll end up spending more."

nggwen@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Winona Wee


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