South Korea is one of the biggest destinations for cosmetic surgery. People from neighboring countries like China and Japan often visit South Korea to get surgeries. Apparently, they have a good reason to make such trips. While generally surgeries like these make small, localized changes, the South Koreans pull off an entirely new look where the patients are “enhanced” versions of themselves.
With changes so extreme, people often have to face trouble while going home or with their identifications. Changes after the surgery make people appear quite different from their original appearance, and consequently, their identification. For example, Chinese immigration has recently held back 23 women because they did not look like the person on their passport!
As Chen Tao, a Shanghai Hongqiao Airport Officer put it, “After they took off their huge hats and big sunglasses following our request, we saw them looking different, with bandages and stiches here and there. We had to compare their uncorrected parts with their photos very carefully.”
Often, people were accompanied by friends who sought to confirm their identification. While the general time taken to identify a person through their passport is 45 seconds, officers end up taking several minutes to identify people who have undergone cosmetic surgery in South Korea.
To get around the identification problem, South Korean hospitals have started issuing certificates of identity to their patients. These certificates include details like the patient’s passport number, name and location of the hospital, and the official seal.
Seeing the “before and after” photographs here, we can sympathize with the immigration officers. The changes are just extreme! This perhaps is also the reason that cosmetic surgery procedures have exponentially increased in South Korea. While there were just 2500 medical procedure patients that visited SK in 2011, the number in 2012 was 25,176.