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.
Given the generally blank historical canvas and wide-open spaces of Gangnam, architects have been able to push the envelope a bit more with their designs south of the river. Here are a few to look out for.
Some Sevit On three islands on the Han River are these futuristic buildings with glass, undulating facades covered in LEDs that glow colourfully each evening.
Tangent An enormous sculpture in glass, concrete and steel, reminiscent of a painting by Kandinsky.
Starfield Library A 13m-tall, neon-lit, designer shrine to books inside the COEX Mall.
Prugio Valley Looking like a giant music speaker crossed with a slab of Swiss cheese, this incredible steel-clad building was designed by Unsangdong Architects.
GT Tower East The slinky-like curvaceous stylings rise like a giant sculpture.
Urban Hive Above Sinnonhyeon station, this building looks like an enormous concrete beehive.
Galleria A sequin-like surface with glass discs that turn psychedelic at night.