South Korea Cosmetic Surgery Market continue to Thrive amidst the COVID-19 Crisis

Seoul, in South Korea, is termed as the plastic surgery capital of the world, as it fosters the highest rate of aesthetic treatments. The prevalence could purportedly be attributed either to essentialism or Confucianism. The latter is blamed for being the predominant root of ‘all Korean conservative evil.’ Cosmetic surgery is perceived as an enhancement, or an extension of make-up, due to which cosmetic procedures are normalized among young adults as well as the older population seeking anti-aging solutions.

Statistics reflect that with nearly one million procedures a year, 1 in 3 women from South Korea, between the age brackets of 19 to 29, have undergone cosmetic surgeries. Likewise, according to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, almost 20% of women have had some form of cosmetic treatments like skin-whitening, blepharoplasty, facelifts, and rhinoplasty. Among an array of procedures, blepharoplasty, or double eyelid surgery is the most popular as most Koreans have ‘monolid’ eyes, without an eyelid crease.

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‘Gangnam Style’ Plastic Surgery

The country observes at least 10,000 surgeries annually, out of which nearly 50% of patients are international citizens or foreign tourists. The affluent district of Gangnam, typically known as South Korea’s ‘Beverley Hills,’ accommodates around 500 aesthetic facilities. Gangnam’s popularity has caused people from Japan, China, and other parts of South East Asia to frequently visit the district for a ‘Gangnam style’ plastic surgery.

Impact of COVID-19 on South Korea Cosmetic Surgery Market

Given the COVID-19 pandemic, South Korean aesthetic surgeons have been deprived of the optimum inflow of foreign clients. However, they are now observing an upsurge in local customers, instead.

  • Supplementing Benefits

Decreased social interactions and working from homes have attributed as a driving aspect for the cosmetic surgery market, as well as, individuals choosing to undergo surgical treatments. “People who wanted to have some cosmetic work done, but couldn’t do it because of lack of time for recovery, have been increasingly visiting our clinics these days,” asserted Hwang Yong-Seok, a Seoul-based cosmetic surgeon. Likewise, people are no longer anxious about the looks and questions directed towards them, during days of wearing post-operation bandages. Thus, the country is witnessing a willingness in people to spend on cosmetic surgeries, despite the pandemic.

As South Korea effectively establishes efforts in containing the Coronavirus outbreak through vehement testing, isolation strategies, efficient social distancing, and contact tracing, the strain on the economy has considerably minimized extensively. Likewise, Seoul has boosted its Coronavirus crisis stimulus package to over $200 billion to reduce the economic brunt caused by the pandemic. As a result, plastic surgeons are now providing relatively higher discounts, further encouraging customers to opt for aesthetic laser surgeries. 

  • Challenging Drawbacks

On the other hand, several pre-booked appointments for surgeries that required general anesthesia were canceled or postponed to contemplate the pandemic’s severity. In addition, slow patient visits also resulted in clinics and medical facilities temporarily shutting down their services. Thus, as numbers of patients plummet, clinics that generally observe an inflow of international and local patients are enduring a crunch.

Nevertheless, online enquires regarding cosmetic surgeries have significantly increased in South Korea. The online consultations help prospective patients prepare in advance for the procedure, once travel prohibitions begin relaxing.

Evolving Definitions of ‘Beauty’ in South Korea

Towards the going under the knife trend for cosmetic reasons, many South Korean’s have contrastingly quoted the added advantages of appearing more ‘traditionally beautiful.’ However, Jung Eun-jin, a medical marketing specialist at PPEUM Clinic for plastic surgery, believes that, “the meaning of beauty has diversified in South Korea,” as masses recognize the alarming popularity of plastic surgery as problematic.

For instance, although enterprises formally disagree with it, candidates who seem more attractive, appealing, or beautiful in the photograph attached to their resumes, are granted an upper hand during professional enlistment procedures. Even plastic surgeons assert an increase in patients, especially during the recruitment season. Therefore, government agencies and companies are instituting a ‘blind recruitment’ system, as South Korea begins acknowledging the prevalence of plastic surgery as a deep-rooted issue. As a result, candidates are not required to attach photographs in their resume, as appearances are not prioritized over their qualifications.

On the Whole:

Although people were skeptical of embracing the notion of adopting cosmetic procedures and surgeries amid the pandemic due to fear of spreading the virus, the country’s effective safety measures have positively influenced a significant demand among the locals. Thus, the overall number of cosmetic procedures is projected to rise by nearly 50% than the last year.