The Korea Herald


Medical disputes over plastic surgery on rise

By Claire Lee

Published : Oct. 1, 2014 - 21:43

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More patients in South Korea are filing medical disputes after receiving cosmetic surgery or other aesthetic treatments at local clinics, raising concerns about the industry’s safety standards and false advertising.

Last week, a woman in her 50s died of dyspnea while receiving liposuction at a clinic in Seoul’s affluent district of Gangnam.

While the woman’s case is extreme, an increasing number of Koreans are seeking help for disappointing results and side effects of cosmetic procedures, according to a report submitted to lawmaker Nam Yoon In-soon’s office by the Korea Medical Dispute Mediation and Arbitration Agency.

“Some of the major factors behind this situation is the lack of government safety regulations on plastic surgery patients and the flourishing advertisements that do not properly inform patients of possible side effects,” said lawmaker Nam Yoon in a statement.

The number of Koreans who consulted the mediation agency after receiving plastic surgery or treatments rose by 64.6 percent from 2012 to 2013, according to the report.

In 2012, 444 individuals visited the agency to receive consultations on disappointing surgical results and side effects. That number rose to 731 in 2013. The agency also received a total of 530 consultation requests from January to July this year.

Nam Yoon also shared a report submitted by Korea Consumer Agency, which received a total of 110 consultation requests from patients suffering from side effects of plastic surgeries last year. The number of requests increased from 71 in 2010 to 110 in 2013.

Among the patients who filed requests, the largest number of them were those who received a rhinoplasty, a surgery that reshapes the nose. The second largest was those who underwent double eyelid surgery, and the third-largest group was those who went through breast augmentation.

More than 55 percent of the patients were in their 20s and 30s, and 85 percent were female.

Lawmaker Nam Yoon said that, while it was illegal for the non-medically trained to speak about medical procedures to those who wish to receive plastic surgery, many clinics in South Korea hire “advisers” without medical degrees to persuade more visitors into undergoing surgeries and treatments.

“These ‘advisers’ do not have the willingness or ability to speak about possible side effects of plastic surgery,” the lawmaker said in a statement.

“What they are doing ― talking about the surgical procedure, side effects, and expected results ― can be considered an illegal medical activity, but it seems like the Health Ministry is taking this as a common practice in the industry.”

In response to Nam Yoon’s sharing of the reports, the Korean Medical Association, the biggest representative body of medical doctors in South Korea, said its members will directly speak to all of its patients, without ‘advisers.’

KMA will also make sure all clinics that perform surgeries which require a general anesthesia to be fully equipped with emergency medical supplies.

By Claire Lee (