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Urban, The Straits Times
Thursday, Apr 24, 2014

Plastic cities

Urban, The Straits Times | Gladys Chung | Thursday, Apr 24, 2014

The lounge area at Idea Plastic Surgery Clinic in Seoul, South Korea.

When Ms Desiree K wanted to increase her cup size from a small B to a full C last year, she headed for Seoul with two friends who were keen on getting their noses fixed too.

The 47-year-old Indonesian housewife, who has lived in Singapore for the last six years, forked out $10,000 for the surgery at Gates Plastic Surgery in the Gangnam area.

The mother of three said she paid at least 50 per cent less than what it would have cost to have the same thing done in Singapore. To further sweeten the deal, the doctor threw in free Botox-like shots to make her face slimmer.

It was the second time Ms K, who declined to reveal her full name, had cosmetic surgery in South Korea. In 2009, at a friend's introduction, she had eyelid and eyebag operations at BK Plastic Surgery Hospital, also in Gangnam, Seoul's plastic surgery hub.

"I returned to Seoul because I was satisfied with the results of my first operation. Now that I'm happy with my new, natural-looking breasts, I'm considering getting liposuction done there too," she says.

She cites the lower costs - 50 per cent cheaper than in Singapore - and her positive impression of South Korean doctors as the main draw.

Ms K notes: "I think the doctors there are good at what they do because they perform so many procedures every day. Practice makes perfect."

She is part of a growing number of women and men here choosing Seoul for plastic surgery and non-invasive aesthetic treatments - partly a corollary of the immense popularity of all things Korean.

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Ms Caitrin Moh, the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions manager at the Korea Tourism Organisation here, says the number of Singaporeans making inquiries about plastic surgery in Seoul has grown in the last three years, from one to two phone calls every six months, to at least one inquiry a month now.

While callers used to be in their late 40s or older and "spoke in hushed tones when asking about general plastic surgery services", she says it is now women in their 20s and 30s seeking information.

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