Hallyu have appealed to the Hallyu fans, especially young

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 a boom in plastic surgery would be discussed which led 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. On the other hand, Korean Government
has been actively promoting medical tourism since Hallyu’s popularity
accelerated. Since Hallyu began, the Korean government has been promoting its
soft power through Hallyu by exporting media contents and following the waves
of ‘cultural Hallyu’ and ‘economic Hallyu’. When plastic surgery became a trend
by Hallyu stars, it offered Korean government a chance to expand the genre of
Hallyu to ‘medical Hallyu’, playing a more proactive role in the global market
(Eun, 2013). 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 and provide their beauty
treatment and plastic surgery to foreigners. 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 for more
diverse promotion of medical tourism industry. For the past few years, South
Korean Government has been promoting medical Tourism through Hallyu using
platforms other than the advertisements, social media or digital billboards. For
example, Korea Tourism Organization has opened a talk show with famous Hallyu
star, Sandara Park from 2NE1 in Manila 2015, for the promotion of Korea medical
tourism and introduction of Korean beauty and wellness care (Korea Tourism
Organization, 2016). Korea Tourism Organization also has participated in Moscow
Medshow 2015 which is the biggest Russian international Medical Tourism
Exhibition. Collaborating with 18 enterprises, the organization has introduced
Korean medical tourism through ‘cultural Hallyu’, such as tasting Korean
traditional teas and experiment of Korean massage (Korea Tourism Organization,
2016). During the exhibition, 9,760 people visited the Korean Pavilion, and the
Korea Medical Tourism promotion hall became the most popular booth, winning the
‘Best Booth Award’. With the effort of South Korean Government and their continuous
use of soft power, the Medical Tourism and Health Statistics (2014), has announced
that it is expected that approximately one million medical tourists will visit
South Korea a year by 2020, with Chinese tourists representing the largest
segment (Kim, 2017).


In conclusion, the
rapid growth of Hallyu is leading success of medical tourism industry in South
Korea. The acceleration of Hallyu and Hallyu stars have influenced many foreigners
to admire the appearance of these celebrities and led them to imitate the appearance
of them. The Korean Government used this phenomenon as a chance of rising
medical tourism industry and their active promotion of plastic surgery and tourism
packages attracted the tourists to visit Korea to receive plastic surgery. As a
result, medical tourism has become a significant source of revenue for South
Korea. For the future development, the South Korean Government is continuing the
use of soft power to promote ‘medical Hallyu’ through Korean popular culture
and celebrities.   


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