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Thursday, 12 July, 2001, 12:28 GMT 13:28 UK
S Korea's cosmetic surgery boom
South Korean man at stock market
Businessmen want to improve their career prospects
By Caroline Gluck in Seoul

Pop stars Kim Ji Hoon and Kim Suk Min are busy recording their next album.

Known as Duke, the singers rose to fame with their upbeat music and down-to-earth attitudes. But they still created a stir after publicly admitting they'd had cosmetic surgery.

These days, the mature look is no longer an asset

Dr Choi Oh Kyu
cosmetic surgeon
"I got my nose done to please my fans, so I could look more attractive. Also I had some breathing problems, and the surgery helped with that as well," said Kim Suk Min.

"These days, a lot of women have surgery. We wanted to show that men also have a right to look attractive."

Surge in demand

In South Korea's entertainment business - where looks are as important as talent - few have been as honest. But surgery is becoming more and more common.

Up to 20% choosing to go under the surgeon's knife are men
A petrol station is currently running a promotional campaign called "Dreams Come True", in which customers can win prizes for filling up their tanks. One of the prizes is a chance to undergo plastic surgery.

Kwan Ki Yong, chairman of SeouSeoul petrol stations, says it shows how mainstream surgery has become. The promotion has led to a 20% surge in customers.

"There is one plastic surgery clinic for every building in this neighbourhood," he said. "I think the density of so many clinics here with top class surgeons has really removed taboos associated with plastic surgery."

With just a few clicks on a computer, a doctor can use digital imagery to show his patients how surgery can enhance their looks.

Career boost

More men than ever before are convinced it can improve their career prospects. And as operations have become cheaper, increasing numbers are going under the knife.

Dr Choi Oh Kyu, a cosmetic surgeon, explains why. "In my clinic, about 15 to 20% of patients are men. It is a big increase," he said. "I think it's because they're placing more importance on their appearance, especially after the Asian financial crisis, when it became harder to find jobs.

"Also, a lot of middle-aged men come in wanting to look younger. These days, in business, the mature look is no longer an asset. Everyone wants to look younger."

The beauty industry is big business in South Korea. Up-market spas specialise in luxury treatments like oxygen therapy for over-worked professionals.

Chung Seung Eun, the general manager of Boon Spa, said: "More men are coming to spas like mine for their beauty treatments. Appearance is very important in South Korea. Korean businessmen are meeting many people every day and so they want to look their best."

As Korea's job market becomes more competitive, enhancing your looks - both naturally and artificially - can give you a cutting edge over your rivals.

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See also:

24 Jul 00 | Africa
SA plastic surgery web auction
01 May 00 | Health
Plastic surgery boom
23 Jan 00 | Health
Cosmetic surgery soars
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