South Korean plastic surgeons are among the best in the world. In fact they’re so good that people from other countries like China and Japan are actually having trouble getting back home.
That’s sounds really crazy, but it’s true. When most people get a nose job or a lip job, they just look like ‘enhanced’ versions of themselves. But people returning from a plastic surgery vacation in South Korea are truly transformed. You’d have to look very closely at the ‘before’ and ‘after’ photographs, and even then, it’s hard to make a connection. So I suppose you couldn’t really blame airport officials for stopping these tourists from returning home.
Thankfully, Korean hospitals have found a way to work around the issue. They are now handing out ‘plastic surgery certificates’ on request to overseas patients. These certificates include the patient’s passport number, the duration of stay, the name and location of the hospital and the hospital’s official seal. Travelers can use the certificate to help convince immigration officials on the return trip home.
In a bizarre incident, a total of 23 women were recently held back at Chinese immigration. They were between the ages of 36 and 54, and had bigger eyes, higher noses and slimmer chins than depicted on their passports. “After they took off their huge hats and big sunglasses following our request, we saw them looking different, with bandages and stiches here and there,” said Chen Tao, a Shanghai Hongqiao Airport Officer. “We had to compare their uncorrected parts with their photos very carefully.”
While the average photo-to-person verification process takes about 45 seconds, officers had to spend several minutes identifying each woman. “They told the officers that they are friends and that they had gone to South Korea together to have cosmetic surgery,” said Chen. “After they passed the identification, we asked them all to renew their passports immediately.”
In 2011, about 2,500 medical tourists visited South Korea. The number increased ten-fold last year, to a whopping 25,176 visitors. Interestingly, a majority of these tourists are from China. While the Chinese are gaining in prosperity, they don’t seem to trust their doctors anymore. According to plastic surgeon Park Byong-choon, “Chinese parents come to Korea even for childbirth. The death of a young singer under a Chinese cosmetic surgeon’s knife a few years ago makes people think twice about doing it at home.”