Hallyu those celebrities. Even though some Hallyu

Hallyu or ‘Korean Wave’, is a term used to describe the popularity of
Korean popular culture in the international scene, including China, Indonesia,
Japan, and even non-Asian countries. Since Hallyu began its movement from
1990s, its genre has been expanded from soap operas to cosmetics. This variety
of Hallyu not only attract the international fans to learn Korean or consume
the promoted products but also attract them to visit Korea for plastic surgery to
look as beautiful as the Korean celebrities. In this essay, the effects of
Hallyu on plastic surgery would be discussed which lead to success of medical
tourism market in Korea.


Since Hallyu’s
popularity accelerated after 2010, Korean plastic surgery rose as a by-product
of Hallyu. Hallyu has been influencing the daily lives of the international
Hallyu fans. With the rapid growth of Korean popular culture based on
entertainment media, additional trends have developed, in which international
fans have taken an interest in learning Korean, communicating with Koreans,
sharing Hallyu contents with friends and families and consuming Korean products
(Eun 2013). Furthermore, the growth of Hallyu has effected the overseas fans to
emulate the appearance of Korean celebrities or ‘Hallyu stars’. Since Hallyu has
expanded its genres such as pop music, variety shows and beauty, K-pop idol celebrities
have become new influencers; their glamorous visuals, performance and music
videos have appealed to the Hallyu fans, especially young generations (Kim,
2017). The rise of K-pop idols not only inspired the international fans to buy
more Korean products such as soundtracks and character products, but led them
to imitate the appearance of those celebrities by purchasing the same cosmetic
products and undergoing plastic surgery (Kim, 2017).

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Since the
internet has been propagated rapidly in Korea, it is common to see the
advertisements of plastic surgery on popular websites such as Naver and Daum. The
Korean media outlets the pictures of Hallyu starts who have “received free
cosmetic surgery in return for promoting a given clinic’s expertise” (Davies
& Han 2011). The growing numbers of ‘before-and-after’ pictures and video
clips of popular actors and idols undergoing plastic surgery attracts the
Hallyu fans who admire the styles of those celebrities. Even though some Hallyu
fans and tourists are not familiar of accessing Korean-language internet, the
digital billboards and screens crowded in the streets and subways could still
tempt them (Davies & Han 2011). In Southeast Asian countries such as China,
female Hallyu fans and tourists have a “strong interest in beauty treatments
including plastic surgery”, and they prefer to purchase Korean makeups and
fashion items to imitate the appearance and style of Korean celebrities they
admire (Kim & Nam 2015). Therefore, it is significant that rapid growth of
Hallyu and internet has affected Hallyu fans to consume the products and cosmetic
medical services promoted by Hallyu stars.


familiar to Hallyu choose Korea for medical tourism because of quality medical service,
skilled doctors, low costs and active promotion of Korean Government. Hallyu
fans, mostly from Asia, are aware of Korean cosmetic products, plastic surgery,
medical technology and doctors. In China, Korean plastic surgery is considered
as an outstanding ‘brand’. According to the Chinese media reviews from 2007,
Chinese surgeons have endorsed Korean surgeons that, they are “skilled in
attending to detail and perform surgery in half time taken in China” (Davies
& Han 2011). Hallyu fans also prefer undergoing plastic surgery in Korea because
the cost of medical expenses in Korea is low compared to that of other
countries such as United States. According to recent research, the total health
exam package offered by Korean hospitals was regarded cost-effective compared
to U.S. hospitals, even after factoring in travel costs (Oh et al. 2014). These
factors affect foreigners to visit Korean for medical tourism where they can
receive quality services at lower costs. Furthermore, Korean Government has
been actively promoting medical tourism since Hallyu’s popularity accelerated. On
2009, the Korean National Assembly approved providing a legal basis for
hospitals to attract foreign patients from overseas countries (Eun 2013). This
has enabled Korean hospitals to promote their beauty treatment and plastic
surgery for medical tourism. Also, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has launched
the ‘Seoul Beauty Tour’ in 2010 (Kim & Nam 2015). Plastic surgery clinics
in Gangnam and Apgujeong provide this medical tourism package; they offer
tourists various services including premium arrangement and beauty consulting to
help tourists visit Korea and organize their schedules for plastic surgery. Hence,
South Korea provides foreigners the best conditions and environment for medical
tourism, especially for those who wish to undergo plastic surgery.


Medical tourism
has become a significant source of revenue for South Korea. With Korean
government’s active promotion of medical tourism, the number of foreign
patients visiting Korea has increased from 8,000 in 2000 to 80,000 in 2010; in
the following year, the medical tourism industry has made a revenue of 116
million US dollars (Oh et al, 2014). According to Kim (2017), China is one of
the top country where Hallyu has significantly been integrated and “the number
of Chinese tourists visiting Korea for medical tourism has been rapidly rising
over the past few years”. Hallyu fans’ desire to Hallyu stars’ appearance and
advertisements featuring those celebrities have inspired tourists to visit
Korea to undergo cosmetic treatment. Current numbers of Chinese medical
tourists visiting Korea are not available, however the frequency of Korean
medical tourism introduced on Chinese mass media verifies that it is a trend. According
to the recent survey held in Chinese medical website, more than 50% out of the
620,823 Chinese people have stated that they have a desire of undergoing
plastic surgery in Korean beauty clinics (Davies & Han 2011). In 2013,

210,000 foreign tourists
from 191 different countries received medical treatment in Korea; this is an
increase of 32.5% from 159,464 visitors in 2012 (Kim, 2017).


Because of such
success, Korea aims to be the next competitive country in medical tourism. The
South Korean government is setting aside as much as USD 4 million a year to
help promote the medical tourism industry. It expects one million medical
tourists a year by 2020, with Chinese travelers representing the largest
segment (Medical Tourism and Healthcare Statistics).


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