Korea Embracing Plastic Surgery Norms Through ‘Medical Tourism’

Posted on 21. May, 2015 by in Culture, Korean Culture, Korean Tourism, Uncategorized

K-Pop stars are, for many, the inspiration for plastic surgery in Korea.  [Photo courtesy of www.seoultouchup.com]

K-Pop stars are, for many, the inspiration for plastic surgery in Korea. [Photo courtesy of www.seoultouchup.com]

South Korea has been pushing efforts both privately and through government agencies to increase tourism to the ROK in the non-traditional form: medical tourism.  In 2014, about 56,000 Chinese alone visited South Korea for plastic surgery, according to China’s Ministry of Health, up from 4,700 in 2009. The social norm in Korea (as well-documented as ever in this Washington Post article), especially for women, is not only acceptable and embraced, but essential and necessary, has taken on new form with the nation’s heavy-handed promotion of medical tourism, mostly for plastic surgery.   From adding eyelids to bigger breasts (or smaller ones for men) to shaving off the jaw bone for a smaller face, Korean norms are quickly becoming a financial market, one clearly embraced and promoted by the private and public sector.

A contest sponsored by the Korean Tourism Organization (한국관광공사) is promoting a competition this month for Malaysian travelers entering Korea between June and November entitled: “Imagine Your Korea: Wondrous K-Beauty”.  The contests asks guests, “In not more than 100 words, state your reason on why you would like to experience K-Beauty in Korea!  Choose one out of the two clinics as stated below in which you would like to experience K-Beauty at…”  The grand prize is a medical voucher awarded to 20 contestants, which is probably aimed at repeat visits or word-of-mouth advertising.  Additionally, the tourism organization is holding an all-day seminar in Kuala Lumpur later this month to teach Malaysians all about “K-Beauty”.

The expansion is capitalizing on the “soft power” of Korean dramas, K-Pop, and Korean image abroad as being distinctly beautiful (as seen on TV).  The industry has reached $5 trillion overall, up to $453 million annually, and nearly one in five Korean women under 50 have had a procedure.  When the Miss Korea 2013 competition created international and domestic shaming due to how similar many of the contestants–most of whom were assumed to have had plastic surgery–resembled each other, it was more surprising that the debate about Korean plastic surgery norms came up in a superficial beauty competition.  Or perhaps it was because Miss Korea looked stereo-typically more Western Caucasian than Korean.

The leading Korean surgeries are double eyelid surgery and a rhinoplasty for a “high ko”, or perceived Western-style nose.  Nearly all Korean job employers require a photo of the applicant, a practice common in Europe and other countries and regions as well.  But in South Korea, that could be make or break for the job, and living in a nation that has the highest number of plastic surgeons per capita leaves the feeling of having little excuse for a flat-nosed, no-eyelid lady in society.

But the phenomena is not as common as one might imagine, with most advertisements being in wealthy regions and not catered to the average income, though prices are relatively cheap compared to other plastic surgery meccas like Southern California.  One doctor claims that 40 percent of his clients are non-Korean citizens.  South Korea is fully embracing the wave of medical tourists, projecting to nearly quadruple revenues, and to have almost 1 million medical tourist by 2020.  (It wouldn’t be shocking for Korea to promote it heavily during the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyongChang [평창 동계 올림픽].)  And if you can’t come to Korea, the doctors will be happy to set-up shop from the U.S. to Mongolia, as the state is promoting doctors to set-up clinics abroad.

One of the reasons Korea keeps costs low, and why medical tourists come, is because its nationalized health care system has not succumbed to foreign pharmaceutical companies, and has therefore kept drug and recovery costs down, relying heavily on generic drugs, as well as being considered a leading in biomedical drug research.  The growth and push for Korean medical tourism is not new, nor is it primarily based on plastic surgery.  Korea has previously promoted significantly cheaper alternatives dental surgery, knee and hip replacement surgery, prosthetic limbs, and ultrasound equipment exports, but lags behind other OECD nations overall.

For a couple of interesting looks, see the videos below:

From ABC News:

YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image


Learn Korean “If” and “When”

Posted on 18. May, 2015 by in Uncategorized

Some of my students were confused using “If/(으)면” and “when/(을)ㄹ 때” because they can be used in the similar situation. For instance, when you go to the store, please buy me a coke. If you go the store, please buy me a coke. Can you classify what is different between two sentences? We all know that they are different, but it is not easy to explain them. Here is easy explanation “If” is using in hypothetical situations. I am not sure a person goes to the store or not but if the person goes the store, I want to get a coke from the person. However, when you use “When”, it is talking the time. Let’s read more examples below to get ideas.

If you are full, please stop eating/ 배가 부르면 그만 드세요/bae ga bu reu myun gu man due sae yo.

When you are full, please stop eating/ 배가 부를 때 그만 드세요/ bae ga bu reul ddae gu man due sae yo.

Can you tell the hypothetical situation in the first sentence? I am sure you can. Above the examples are that you can use “If” and “When” at the same time with different meaning. However the example below is not.

미국에 가면 요리를 많이 할 거예요/ If I go to America, I will cook a lot.

미국에 갈 때 요리를 많이 할 거예요/ When (While, at the time) I go to America, I will cook a lot.

The first one is fine because it is in hypothetical situation, but the second one sounds silly because “When” is time (the time when). Please watch the video below to see more examples.


Busan Cave Bar’s Makgeolli, Dongdongju Is Korea’s Best City Escape

Posted on 16. May, 2015 by in Cuisine, Culture, Uncategorized

The "Dragon Dream", a cave bar in Busan, South Korea.  [Photo courtesy of cityawesome.com]

The “Dragon Dream”, a cave bar in Busan, South Korea. [Photo courtesy of cityawesome.com]

Hidden to even Busan natives, “Dragon Dream” (용꿈) is a makgeolli (막걸리) bar with two twists: a former World War II Japanese bomb shelter carved into the mountain during the colonization of Korea, and a unique version of makgeolli called dongdongju (동동주).

The cave (동굴) drips with water seeping through the rock, calcium deposits growing in small rooms, and naturally there is a nearly two meter dragon near the entrance.  Located a short taxi drive from Busan’s “downtown” Seomyeon (서면), the “Cave Bar”, as it is know to expats, is a city escape inside the mountain.

The difference begins with the makgeolli itself.  Dongdongju is made from sticky rice that floats in it, whereas makgeolli is brewed from hard rice (고두밥).  Both can be made with either glutinous rice (찹쌀), the preferred method for more sweet than sour, and non-glutinous rice.  A special Korean wheat yeast (누룩) is added along with a sweetener like rice sugar syrup, and water, which makes up 80% of makgeolli.  (Some Koreans like to mix either type with “cider” or a lemon-line soda, such as Lotte’s Chilsung.)  It takes about four days for fermentation.  Both makgeolli and dongdongju are roughly 6%-8% in alcohol content.

The restaurant once served the typical food accompanying makgeolli: pajeon (파전), a rolled up omelette (계란말이), kimchi with tofu (두부김치), and several more.  But recently the restaurant turned into a haemul-jjim (해물찜) restaurant, a mix of steamed or braised seafood with bean sprouts (콩나물)  covered in a spicy sauce, a dish less popular with expats and one that runs on the high end.  (For a look at what haemul-jjim means to some, see this clip from the Korean drama “Let’s Eat” [식샤를 힙시다].) YouTube Preview Image

Although the video below will show you the strong belief–particularly held by the older generations–that makgeolli has fantastic benefits towards longevity and weight loss, it is legendary for giving the finest hangover (숙취).  But Korean hangover cures, mostly in a soup version (해장국), date back as far as makgeolli itself, over 600 years to the Goryeo Dynast (고려원조).

The restaurant is not easy to find.  But if you find yourself in Busan, try telling/showing this to your taxi driver: 위치 (location): 범일1동사무소 앞 한상기린 아파트 맞은편.

The Arirang report is a must watch to understand how important makgeolli is to the traditional folks and Korea culture as a whole.

YouTube Preview Image