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Korea’s Aesthetics

Posted by Heliocentrism on September 14, 2009

Mark getting a check up

The Eyes have it.

One thing that Korea is famous for is plastic surgery. In Gangnam, the posh part of Seoul, you will find “Aesthetic Clinics” left and right. Even in the not so fancy areas there are many “Aesthetic Clinics” but most of them look a bit sketchy and far from aesthetically pleasing. I don’t know of anyone who has had plastic surgery while in Korea, other than an acquaintance here and there, but I do know Mark. He got his eyes done.

A happy customer

Surgery in Korea generally costs less than say, back in the states. I met a guy who had brain surgery last year on Halloween for about 2,000USD. He was a teacher and had the national health insurance. His surgery was covered by the government health insurance*, but non-necessary procedures will not be covered.

They are still pretty inexpensive though. That is why people who are in Korea either visiting or working, will get some “work” done while they’re here. And, there are doctors galore to accommodate them.


Mark’s Eyes

If you have been following my blog you may have noticed Mark. He is featured in many of my entries. I met him this year at a Lunar New Year’s celebration event. Since then we’ve gone on many trips together.

He used to look like this:

eating green tea ice cream

Now he looks like this:


Do you see the difference?

Mark had LASEK eye surgery and no longer needs to wear his coke-bottle glasses. He looked around on several forums online to find a good doctor and picked Dream Eye Center. It cost him about 1,500USD because he got a “foreigner discount”. (I’m not sure if they still do the “foreigner discount”.)

10 hours after surgery Marks eyes were burning, so he cooled them down with a little noreabang.


The surgery itself took about 15 minutes with a few minutes of prep.  All the eye tests had to be done again and again to check for any changes in his eyes. This is what most of the time was spent on. He went in one Saturday with his glasses and left an hour and a half later with burning eyes minus the glasses. His vision improved over the weeks and months. He has had several check-ups to make sure that everything was still going well. His vision is now almost 20/20.

Before his vision was -5.5 and -6.1 but I can’t find the conversion to the 20/20 scale. Let’s just say that without his glasses, Mark was helpless and could not function on his own. For amusement, I used to hide his glasses right in front of him and watch him blindly feel for them.

eye drops

Right after the surgery though, his eyes stung especially in the morning when he woke up. He was constantly using eye drops. One contained steroids to strengthen his eyes. The other was to fight against bacterial infection. He still uses the eye drops that contains steroids.

***** UP DATE Dec-2013 *****

Years later Mark’s vision is still 20/20. Even though he no longer lives in Korea to come in for check-ups his eyes are very healthy and he has had no problems.


Mark got 2 Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf gift cards for filling out an assessment form

* A Word about the National Health Insurance

I know of a few people who have gotten sick or had accidents while working in Korea and had the national health insurance. Some have had no problems with paying their hospital fees, others have. The problem is the hospitalization fee.

You do have to pay for medical attention. You might even have to pay thousands of dollars, or millions of won, for surgery and/or hospital stay. The national insurance will only pay part of the fees for needed procedures and will not pay for anything that is considered unnecessary. The co-pay is not small for some surgeries.

Most medical treatments here are a lot cheaper than in most countries and so is the monthly cost of health insurance. I pay about 85,000KRW a month. When I get sick and need to see a doctor I pay about 3,000KRW for my visit and about 3,000KRW for my individually wrapped medication. But if I needed major surgery I would expect to pay thousands of dollars, like my friend who had the 2,000USD brain surgery.

Mark and his doctor

That said, if you do decide to go to Korea to teach for a year know that the national health care is not free. If you never get any serious injures, it’s really cheap. If you know that you will do activities where you might get hurt, like playing sports regularly or using a scooter, make sure to have some extra “should in case” money or extra health insurance for an emergency.

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