The Pitfalls of Plastic Surgery in South Korea

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The steady flow of foreign visitors to South Korea for plastic surgery has led to a spike in the number of disputes over surgeries gone awry, reports the Korea Times in Los Angeles.

The paper notes a lack of communication between patient and doctor, as well as an industry that is poorly regulated, as reasons behind the rise in complaints.

In 2013, some 24,075 foreigners visited South Korea for the purpose of undergoing plastic surgery. Nearly 70 percent of them came from China, many hoping to model themselves on Korean celebrities. The majority are women.

According to the report, one woman described as being of foreign nationality underwent several surgeries around her jaw and eyes. After returning home she experienced a number of side effects, including severe pain around her ears. 

A later investigation found the woman was not provided an interpreter during the pre-surgery counseling session, and that she was not informed about decisions regarding the extent of the surgery. 

Other cases have been more severe. The Korea Times report points to two cases in which foreign women – one a Korean American – died after undergoing surgery. 

Data from the Korea Medical Disputes and Arbitration Agency, which oversees cases of medical malpractice, notes the number of medical accidents involving foreign patients has risen from 58 cases in 2012 to 88 cases in the first half of 2014.

In 2012, South Korea passed a law intended to aid victims of medical malpractice. But a recent report submitted to lawmakers shows more needs to be done to regulate the country’s booming plastic surgery market. Between 2012 and 2013 the number of South Korean patients seeking mediation rose nearly 70 percent.