[By Tania Hui]

Throughout the history of mankind, many had travelled that extra mile in search of better healers and more advanced medical facilities to address their health concerns. As the world today gets increasingly transfixed with the plastic surgery culture in South Korea amongst K-pop stars and pageant queens, further propelled by a barrage of hypnotizing “before and after” online blogs, it is little wonder that many women looking for a “software upgrade” are making a beeline to the one-stop cosmetic surgery hub for a quick nip and tuck. Before you make the leap and think that beauty is just a plane ride away, there are some things you should know about having cosmetic surgery aboard. This isn’t just a case of having decided on what procedure you want and when to travel for it, there are definitely more questions to ask about going for surgery abroad than having it done at home. Here’s our checklist of the top 5 essential things to know about plastic surgery in Korea, leave no stones unturned so that you will not make any hasty decisions which you will live to regret.

Certification & Licensing

One of the most crucial things to find out about having cosmetic surgery abroad is the credentials of your surgeon. If you do not already have a name in mind, then you must at least be aware of the institution that he or she is practicing in. Always bear in mind, if you don’t ask, no one has an obligation to tell. Request politely for documentation on their history, including certifications and make sure they are qualified to perform the specific procedure that you are asking for. You should also take into account their experience, including but not limited to the number of similar cases they have performed, before & after portfolio and past patients’ reviews.Be aware of the licensing laws and how robust are the legal requirements to regulate plastic surgery in Korea. Find out if there’s an online, up-to-date board certified registry such as the AAPS (American Association of Plastic Surgeons) that can help ascertain the authenticity and credentials of the surgeon that you are seeking out.

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Communication barriers

There’s nothing worse than getting your intentions lost in translation. The clinic might be represented by a thoroughly comprehensive webpage but you won’t want to find yourself at its door with huge language barriers to scale. Through online reviews and speaking to them directly over the phone or on skype, you should be able to judge how proficient their command of English is. Make sure you are comfortable with the level of communication before you sign any dotted line to give consent. Speaking the same lingo is undoubtedly one of the key issues to address with cosmetic surgery done overseas. When you contact them, they should have detailed information about the procedure you are interested in, health care, hospital accommodation and travel arrangements such as visa requirements. Ideally, they should offer to send you an information package to address all logistic concerns.

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Dr. Who?

When you are deciding or have decided to get a procedure done in your country of residency, you would want to see your surgeon prior to it. The same thing should apply to those done overseas. Before you let someone place a scalpel on your face or body, you got to be comfortable with him and confident that he’s the right person for the job.

Often, one can judge whether a surgeon is right for you based on his articulacy, language skills and knowledge to your queries as well as demeanor. Rather than flying all the way there, request for a ‘tele-consult’ or teleconference. Even if you did make the journey, don’t be pressurized to commit if your surgeon is not giving you the correct vibes. Check for alternative practitioners or just treat your trip as a much needed vacay. You can always go home with a new MCM bag, not necessary a new nose!

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Dollars & Sense

Due to the intense competition in the market, the truth about cosmetic surgery in Korea is that companies’ pricing policies vary greatly with different levels of transparency. Generally, you would expect them to include everything in the cost of the procedure but this is often not the case. Pre-operative laboratory assessment and anesthetic fees might not be included and any extras such as compression garments and medication may come with added cost. Depending on the complexity of the surgery, you might be required to stay in Korea for a period of time. Check if your accommodation is included and that covers any time you may have to be warded. Subsequent reviews, wound dressing and removal of stitches can all add up to a substantial amount if not already included in your package deal.Be wary of surgeons or institutions that slash prices or offer attractive discounts if you take on more than one procedure. Stand firm and don’t be swayed by suggestion to take on surgeries which you did not originally intend to do and therefore have not adequately researched upon.

“I’ve come across several patients who develop complications or were unhappy with the results of secondary procedures that they were enticed to do while getting surgery abroad,” warns Dr. Tan Ying Chien  consultant plastic surgeon from the SW1 Clinic , registered Aesthetics Surgery in Singapore (formerly from the Novena Plastic Surgery Centre of The Sloane Clinic). “You might end up with more than what you had bargained for, at times with expensive or worse, irreversible damages.”

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Complications & Follow-up

One of the major drawbacks of having cosmetic surgery abroad is the access to follow-up options in the event of unforeseen complications or unsatisfactory results. Generally, this can be divided to those that occur early before you exit Korea or later after you return to your own country. Check with them if there’s any subsidy if you are required to stay on in Korea for a longer period then you initially expect. It is also important to take note if they have any tie in of medical services with hospitals and clinics in your country of residence to address your post-operative problems and concerns.

In conclusion, no elective cosmetic surgery should be entered into lightly no matter how attractive it appears to be, it is not a decision to rush into. Do your research thoroughly and learn all the things you need to know about plastic surgery abroad while keeping an open mind to options that are available locally.

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Dr. Tan Ying Chien previously from The Sloane Clinic Plastic Surgery Centre @ Novena, is the Consultant Plastic Surgeon at the SW1 Clinic and remains a Visiting Consultant to the Plastic Surgery Departments at both KK and SGH, Singapore. He has made a name for himself as one of Singapore’s top breast and nose augmentation surgeon, and is widely considered as one of the region’s top ear reconstruction surgeon.


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