Glowing Skin, New Face: The Passport Hurdle in Korea’s Beauty Tourism

South Korea’s plastic surgeons are renowned for their expertise, drawing visitors from neighbouring countries like China and Japan. However, this expertise has led to an unexpected dilemma for some of these international visitors.

When these individuals are ready to return home after their procedures, they sometimes find that they no longer resemble their passport photos. As reported by Korean websites Onboa and Munhwa, to address this issue, some Korean hospitals have begun issuing “plastic surgery certificates” for overseas visitors. These certificates, which include details like the patient’s passport number, the length of their stay, and the hospital’s official seal, are meant to help these travellers clear immigration without hitches.

This trend started about three years ago but has seen a significant uptick recently. The Korea Times highlighted the surge in Chinese medical tourism to South Korea, attributing it partly to mistrust in the Chinese medical system. Plastic surgeon Park Byong-choon commented on the phenomenon, noting that events like the tragic death of a young singer after a procedure in China have made many wary of undergoing surgery closer to home.

The rise in medical tourism is evident in the numbers. In 2011, South Korea welcomed 2,545 medical tourists. By last year, that figure had ballooned to 25,176 visitors.

Korean skincare has long been the gold standard in the beauty world, with its 10-step routines, innovative products, and emphasis on hydration and prevention. One of the most popular products to emerge from this beauty mecca is the Korean sheet mask, a face-shaped fabric soaked in nutrition-packed solution. These masks, which can address everything from dryness to acne, are a testament to the country’s dedication to flawless skin.

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