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    Feb 17, 2016

    No longer pretty good time for Korean plastic surgeons


    THE heyday might have been over for the cosmetic surgery industry in South Korea's swish Gangnam district as local customers and the once-growing Chinese horde have fallen in numbers, with the latter expected to turn to safer alternatives at home.

    Desperate for business, one clinic in Gangnam is targeting students and their mums with a family package offering up to 50 per cent discount, reported South Korea's Chosun Ilbo.

    The clinic with over 30 plastic surgeons, which is leading the price war along with some other big players in Gangnam, has also slashed prices by more than half for some treatments.

    The charge for double eyelids, normally around a million won (S$1,200), has plunged to 490,000 won, and that for a nose job is 1.39 million won from a previous 3.5 million won, said Chosun.

    Liposuction for foreigners, who used to be charged far more than locals, has dropped from four million won to two million won at some clinics.

    "If you consider the cost of hiring interpreters and guide services for foreign patients, clinics are losing more money the more foreign patients they take on," a source told Chosun.

    According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, more than 20,000 foreigners received cosmetic surgeries in Gangnam in 2014.

    But that number dropped to just 12,000 last year, according to the district office's data, a dip of 40 per cent.

    According to the China Association of Plastics and Aesthetics (Capa), about 60,000 Chinese visited South Korea for cosmetic surgeries in 2014, up 45 per cent from 2013.

    However, post-surgery disputes in South Korea involving Chinese have also been increasing by between 10 and 15 per cent each year, said Capa.

    Chinese plastic surgeon Tian Yongcheng advised his countrymen to have their cosmetic surgeries done at home, citing China's more stringent laws and more experienced practitioners, reported the Cngold financial news portal.

    Two analysts at HSBC said in a report on Monday that China's cosmetic surgery industry would become the world's third largest in 2019 when it doubles to 800 billion yuan (S$172 billion) in value.

    Foreigners were fewer at Gangnam clinics last year largely because of the outbreak of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in South Korea, which took 36 lives between May and July, said Chosun.

    But it might be the economic slowdown that has dampened local demand.

    Others argue that the market is regulating itself as there are far too many cosmetic clinics in South Korea.

    According to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, there are 2,054 plastic surgery specialists in the country, or 4.05 per 100,000 South Koreans, the highest ratio in the world.