The power of social media, backed by skilful marketing, has helped K-pop, or Korean pop music, evolve from a simple musical genre to a subculture that is wildly popular among many Thais. But, like all subcultures, it has its sinister side. Now the president of the Facial Surgery Association has expressed alarm over the extreme behaviour of some young women who travel to South Korea for surgery to help them look like their pop idols. He says these surgeries are often botched because neither the patients nor the Thai clinics, which act as agents, properly check the reputation of the Korean medical facilities. Dr Chonlatis Sinratchatanant says Thai doctors then have to try to repair the damage and psychological trauma.
While cosmetic surgery is big business in South Korea and Japan, it is also a thriving industry here. And if the Medical Council and plastic surgeons have their way, the whole healthcare industry will expand. They have urged the government to support their efforts to promote Thailand as the surgical hub of Asia, a move they believe could earn the country at least 200 billion baht a year. To that end they have proposed a comprehensive cosmetic surgery and tourism package. Going even further, the newly formed Medical Tourism Association will follow in the footsteps of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and organise roadshows throughout Southeast Asia aimed at attracting more foreigners to undergo medical treatment and cosmetic surgery.
In essence, both organisations are selling the power of dreams. While the TAT promises an idyllic holiday amid the scenic attractions of Amazing Thailand, cosmetic surgeons are offering a path to greater self-esteem, fulfilment, youth and beauty through facelifts, rhinoplasty (nose reshaping), breast resizing, liposuction, Botox and a host of other procedures. This is in line with commercials for cosmetics which are almost always about making people look younger. Pensioners need not apply.
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