Photo: Jaune d’eau via Flickr
Plastic surgery can be an expensive endeavour.Americans have long traveled abroad for their nips and tucks as a cost-saving device, and Asia has become the go-to destination for medical tourism as hospitals from Seoul to Singapore add technology and well-trained physicians to their teams.
Industry experts say that medical tourism in Asia will grow at a rate of 15 to 20% a year, thanks in large part to an influx of newly rich people in China and elsewhere in the region, according to Reuters.
While Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia have long been the top destinations for those looking to go under the knife abroad, South Korea has become the new hotspot for such travellers.
It’s got a modern medical system, trained physicians and pretty resorts where you can while away the time while you recover.
Want to know the ins and outs of getting your boob job done in South Korea?
South Korea has embraced its reputation as a new haven for medical tourists, opening one-stop centres to deal with foreigners who fly in for surgery.
While Americans--who can save as much as 50% on surgery by travelling to Asia--make up the bulk of medical tourists, it's quickly catching on among China's newly wealthy.
The price of a boob job can range, but $6,000 (plus $1,000 or so for a plane ticket) is a safe estimate.
People travel abroad for both medical and cosmetic surgery, and different countries are known for different types of procedures.
Thailand and India, for example, lead in orthopedic and cardiac surgery.
South Korea, on the other hand, is known for plastic surgery.
Chinese patients often arrive in South Korea with photographs of Korean celebrities they want to look like, Lee Soo-jung of the Lamar Plastic Surgery Clinic in Seoul told Reuters.
Unlike some popular destinations for medical tourism like India and Latin America, South Korea has a well-functioning medical system and high medical standards.
The country is known for its high success rate in treatment of cancers and liver transplants, and has modern facilities.
The flight to South Korea might be the most expensive part of your journey.
Asiana Airlines, Korea's second-largest passenger carrier, recently entered an agreement with Hanyang University Medical centre to support and promote medical tourism.
If you're travelling in from China, good news--the Korea Tourism organisation recently launched a trial tour with six Chinese travel agencies. Packages include massages and visits to popular tourist destinations in addition to your medical procedure.
Advertising for plastic surgery is ubiquitous in Gangnam, the 'new money' district of Seoul, where train passengers are 'bombarded with exhortations to 'round your rectangular jaw,' or before-and-after images of small and large diamond rings,' according to the Economist.
Many of those clinics have reportedly experienced a 20% increase in foreign clients, many of whom come wanting to look like Korean pop stars.
If you'd like to catch some rays while you recuperate from your boob job, schedule your surgery on Jeju Island.
One of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia, the island will soon be home to Jeju Healthcare Town, a joint project between the government and the private sector that is slated to open in 2015.
According to the Korea IT Times:
With the concept of 'Health and Relaxation' designed to take advantage of Jeju's beautiful natural environment, Jeju Healthcare Town is divided into three areas - Wellness Park, a medical relaxation complex for beauty, preventive care, health and relaxation; Medical Park, a high-tech medical complex for various high-quality specialised treatment services; and R&D Park, a medical R&D complex.
Unfortunately, the language barrier remains one of the biggest problems for foreigners seeking medical care in South Korea.
While some medical centres are training staff to speak English, it's still not a given that your care providers will be able to understand you.
Medical tourism is becoming a major growth engine of the South Korean economy, and foreigners are pouring in for their tummy tucks and nose jobs.
Four years ago, fewer than 8,000 foreigners traveled into the country for surgery.
Some 200,000 are expected to come next year, according to an official from the Korea Health Industry Development Institute. And by 2020, the South Korean government expects to host a million medical tourists a year, according to Reuters.
Americans can typically save between 40% and 50% by travelling abroad for surgery, but South Korea is not as cheap as some other popular medical tourism destinations.
At IAAN Clinic, a prominent plastic surgery centre in South Korea, a saline breast augmentation will cost $6,000, while a reduction costs $8,000.
In the U.S. the procedure generally costs $5,000 to $10,000 and is not covered by insurance. But it can take much longer to do at home.
Medical tourists don't go to South Korea 'for lower costs but it's for quicker access to high quality care,' a U.S.-based healthcare attorney told the Independent.
Some major hospitals in South Korea charge foreigners 2.5 to 3 times what they charge locals, according to the Korea Times.
Hospitals say the higher costs are warranted because they often require longer consultations and interpretation services.
While the country's recently revised medical law requires practitioners to disclose their two-tier payment systems, most still don't, the Korea Times reported.
If you don't want to go to South Korea, there are plenty of other medical tourism destinations in Asia.
If Korean food isn't your thing, visit Thailand, Singapore, India, Malaysia or the Philippines--all have their pros when it comes to getting surgery.
India is known for inexpensive procedures, while Thailand is popular for those looking to combine their surgery with a vacation.
Singapore is hot for celebrities and wealthy individuals from the Middle East, according to Reuters.
Hopefully you've enjoyed your plastic surgery experience in South Korea. You should feel refreshed and look like a Victoria's Secret model.
South Korea is considering enacting reforms to provide for malpractice compensation, but for now foreigners are out of luck.
Foreign victims of medical malpractice will be eligible to seek compensation in 2012, according to International Insurance News.
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