South Korea has the most cosmetically enhanced people on the planet. The practice of going under the knife is viewed as a gateway to better careers and the key to a happier life. But the high demand for a plastic appearance is also fueling a dangerous addiction. I’m Steve Chow on this edition of 101 East we’ve investigated South Korea’s plastic surgery boom. South Korea’s capital, Seoul, is at the heart of a growing obsession. An obsession to look perfect. People from across the nation and the world are flocking here for plastic surgery, supporting what has become a five billion dollar a year industry. More people have cosmetic surgery in South Korea per capita than anywhere else on Earth. But the quest for beauty and profits is putting lives at risk. What’s driving the growth of this booming business? And at what price to both individuals and the wider Korean society? In South Korea, it seems beauty is everything. For women, that means big round eyes, a pointed nose, a pleasant smile, a V-shaped chin, and a slim jaw. And this is when they come to get it. So this is Apgujeong, which is effectively the Las Vegas strip of plastic surgery, and all the lights behind me here all these businesses 95% of these businesses are plastic surgery clinics, and you walk past these clinics and I have a lot of advertising in the front windows and there’s pictures of the doctors and the doctors are effectively the movie stars of the plastic-surgery world They’re the celebrities of the clinic, demigods. More than 4000 clinics provide cosmetic surgery in Seoul, with an estimated 650,000 per year going under the knife. The number of operations are soaring, but with that has come an increase in cases where things go wrong. Today, I’m visiting one of the biggest and most popular plastic surgery clinics in Seoul. Man: Hey Nick: Hey Man: How are you? Nick: Nice to meet you! Man: Welcome to Grand Plastic Surgery. 10 years old, the Grand has recently expanded. Opening a 15-story tower with state-of-the-art medical facilities, employing 30 doctors, and 400 staff. We were given unprecedented access to the building. We’ll be at closely monitored by a PR team. The general manager, KS. Young, gave us a tour The Grand needs to present a positive image in order to maintain its position as one of Seoul’s leading plastic surgery clinics. Young is very keen to show me that surgery here isn’t a risk. What would you say is the most popular surgery here? The majority of plastic surgery patients are women in their late teens and twenties. like Ahn Min Yung, a 24 year old piano teacher from Seoul. As part of the package, she’s having a pre-op photo shoot. Like most of the Grand’s customers, her reasons for going under the knife have nothing to do with medical necessity. One of Seoul’s most famous surgeons is Ryu Sang Wook, head doctor at Grand plastic surgery. [Knocks] Under Doctor Wook’s stewardship, the Grand has gained a reputation as a clinic that can perform the full range of surgeries. This one-stop-shop service has turned it into one of the country’s most lucrative. Ahn is just one of many young people who are choosing to go under the knife. Koreans are flocking to plastic surgery clinics like never before. It’s even common for parents to buy their children cosmetic operations as high school graduation gifts. For many, the promise of perfection and the pressure to conform are evident in the relentless media and advertising Koreans are bombarded with on a daily basis. In such an image driven consumerist environment, plastic surgery has become a high demand and lucrative industry. And now, it’s luring doctors from other fields. More doctors means more surgeries can be done, and clinics are increasingly trying to attract international clients to stay ahead of the pack YK plastic surgery in Gangnam is one of many smaller clinics targeting overseas customers According to its marketing manager, Park Jae-min. In 2013, some 400,000 foreigners came to South Korea for medical tourism, and this number is expected to rise to 1 million by 2020. YK’s head doctor, Kim Yong Kyu, says attracting foreign patients is a matter of survival for the clinics. Today, South Korea’s reputation leads the world for plastic surgery. Chinese patient, Zhu A Li (I apologize for mispelling it) traveled all the way from Shanghai for an operation in which she feels will improve her looks. To cater for this expanding market, a specially-designed government-funded center is open for foreign medical tourists. Hi, hi. Hey I’m nick This is Natalie. [Nick: Nice to meet you]. This is the place for foreign visitors from all the world to get medical service. This is a very interesting things. It’s a kiosk, so visitors come here if you are interesting about their surgery, but you don’t know where they need to go So I’ll press the button. It shows clinics is specialized for nose plastic surgeries So even location send it to their emails. [Nick: Asks your email from here, ok.] Squared jaw reduction. That’s just chopping down the jaw? [Natalie: Yes, yes, exactly] $4,134 Is there an age where it’s too young for you to let foreign people come for surgery? There’s no regulations, no. [Nick: Okay, alright.] For morality, they need to take think about it. [Nick: Oh all the clinics?] Yes, right, okay, okay? It depends on individuals. Okay, this is our experience. [inaudible] If you want to try [Nick: Yes, I’ll like to.] Put your forehead here and close your eyes. There’s going to [inaudible[. Please close your eyes Is this new technology? [Natalie: Yes, this is brand new and made by Korea.] It’s Korean technology. Okay, so all done, okay? How do I look? [Natalie: uhh] You need some time to analyze second please okay? Okay There’s pictures for your pores and wrinkles. We usually suggest them if we reduce the winkles with botox. Don’t move these muscles and these lines, It’s winkles. so this is good indication for filler [inaudible]. Generally, I feel your skin is well, it’s great. It’s not bad. [Nick: Oh, thank you.] Just take care of your winkles Here, plastic surgery seems safe and friendly. But that’s not the reality for everyone. Shin Hyun Ho is a lawyer who specializes in prosecuting botched surgeries. He says victims often win cases, but due to Korean laws, compensation payouts are small, compared to countries like the U.S. He believes this makes doctors and clinics more willing to take unnecessary risks. He believes this makes doctors and clinics more willing to take unnecessary risks. Soo Yi Yoon is one plastic surgery client who claims her life has been destroyed by doctor one of Seoul’s leading clinics. She had her face and jaw line slimmed down and eyelid correction surgery. So was attracted to her clinic by positive customer reviews online, but these reviews could well have been faked by shady middlemen third party brokers have no medical knowledge of qualifications, and are paid commissions by clinics to entice customers. We managed to contact one of these brokers, but he’s extremely cautious. He insists we meet him in a provincial town two hours outside of Seoul and only wants to be interviewed in disguise at night in a backstreet alley. Do you actively try to persuade people who perhaps don’t really need plastic surgery to have plastic surgery? Soo was unable to afford a compensation lawyer and now works two jobs In order to pay off the $11,000 in credit card debts for her failed surgery. It’s time for Ahn to go under the knife But she remains anxious. It will be 3 or four months before Ahn finds out if this operation gives her the look she wants. But for one 19-year old woman, the quest for beauty has had devastating consequences She was left with severe brain damage after having plastic surgery at the Grand Since we’ve left Seoul, the Korean association of plastic surgeons have publicly apologized to the woman’s family, and expelled 4 of the Grand’s doctors after investigating the clinic. The Grand did not respond to our request for comment on the case. It seems the Grand didn’t hold the key to Ahn’s dreams of beauty either. The hospital told us she wasn’t happy that her face didn’t look slimmer after recovery. When we tried to contact her for a final interview, she stopped returning our calls With illegal brokers and a spate of malpractice victims, Koreans are paying a higher price for pursuing perfection. Despite the dangers, the rates of plastic surgery keep rising Some fear it’s creating a society where nothing matters but beauty. But for others, their perception of what is beautiful has changed forever.