South Korea's promise of double eyelid procedures, jawline restructurings and other cosmetic surgeries that were safer and better, even if a bit more expensive, than operations in their home country have attracted throngs of Chinese medical tourists in recent years. But that promise is not always fulfilled, and Chinese medical tourists are filing more and more complaints over botched plastic surgeries, to a degree that could hurt diplomatic relations between China and South Korea, the Korea Times reported Wednesday.
In 2012, five Chinese patients filed complaints with the Korea Medical Dispute Mediation and Arbitration Agency. By 2014, the number had risen to 18, and as of August 2015, 12 people have filed complaints. The number of Chinese patients headed to South Korea for plastic surgery has also skyrocketed, from 4,725 in 2009 to 79,500 in 2014, according to the Korea Times.
Meanwhile, angry patients have been protesting in the Seoul districts of Myeong-dong and Gangnam, holding up before-and-after pictures of themselves. One woman's nose had been disfigured in a nose job, while another said her jaw had been partially paralyzed in a different surgery. Now, some want compensation, and apologies, from Korean clinics.
The Korean embassy in China has reportedly warned that diplomatic relations could suffer from the complaints, as they hurt South Korea's public image. At the same time, the embassy called for plastic surgeons who committed malpractices to be punished.
Medical tourism, including plastic surgery, is a booming industry in South Korea. The government has projected that by the year 2020, one million medical tourists will visit annually, the majority of them from China, the New York Times has reported. In 2013, that number was 221,218.
But as the number of medical tourists and surgeries continues to surge, the number of mistakes--and complaints--is likely to as well.