Medical Tourism in Gangnam
In a city that has one of the highest rates per capita in the world for cosmetic surgery, nowhere is this industry more visible than downtown Gangnam. As you stroll along Apgujeong-ro and Dosan-daero in Sinsa-dong, you'll find the streets lined with hundreds of boutique clinics, surgeries and high-rise medical centres that all specialise in plastic surgery. The sight of postoperative patients walking around in sunglasses with bruised, busted-up faces is not uncommon.
While estimates from the BBC have reported around 50% of Korean women in their 20s have had work done, it's an industry that also caters to an international clientele. Around one-third of patients are from abroad, mainly Chinese, Japanese and Russian. It's an industry not lost on the tourism department, which has set up the Gangnam Medical Tour Center. Sharing space with the main tourist office in Gangnam, it produces shelfloads of leaflets listing medical centres, as well as interactive features where you can get a range of 'before' and 'after' photos, as well as have your skin analysed, which will give you a rundown on your flaws and the work you need to have done.
The Korean Wave pop phenomenon has had much influence in shaping the public consciousness about what defines beauty. This has seen not only the standard nip, tucks and implants, but more extreme trends such as double eyelid surgery, which creates a more 'Westernised' appearance.