Medical Tourism Update

Namdaemun Market, Seoul

According to a recent article at, duty-free shopping is no longer limited to perfumes, alcohol and cigarettes in South Korea, which has expanded the list of non-taxable tourist purchases to include breast augmentations, facelifts and other elective aesthetic procedures. Further, tourists will enjoy a 10% rebate of the amount paid for their procedures. This tactic follows on the heels of the MERS epidemic that decimated 2015 summer tourism in South Korea. Although Hong Kong and Taiwan fared much worse, losing almost 80% of tourists as a result of the MERS outbreak, only South Korea has taken steps to foster a dramatic influx of tourists from other SE Asian countries, as well as Europe and America, by offering duty free shopping plus a rebate on plastic surgery procedures.

South Korea has become an international destination for elective plastic surgery, performing more procedures per capita than any other country in the world—double the procedures in countries like Brazil and Japan; 75% more than the US and almost triple the number of procedures in Mexico, Germany and France. South Korea hosted nearly 82,000 foreign patients in 2010 for various types of surgery, increasing to over 266,000 last year. The government hopes the 10% rebate will boost those numbers even higher.

Is Foreign Plastic Surgery Safe?

No matter how you look at it, plastic surgery is surgery. It involves alterations of ones physical features under general anesthesia and recovery afterwards. The delivery of anesthesia should be performed by a board certified anesthesiologist or, at the very least, a nurse anesthetist but, depending upon the rules of a given country, could be performed by someone whose qualifications are less than those required in the US.

Is Foreign Plastic Surgery Cost-Effective?

Although the quoted price for a procedure performed outside the US might be less than the figure by a US-based plastic surgeon, the actual cost of international cosmetic enhancement goes beyond the price of the procedure. Airfare, meals, and hotel expenses must be figured into the mix, and an extra person may be needed to accompany the patient for both companionship and post-op care. Once those expenses are considered, international plastic surgery isn’t really a savings to most patients.

The Skill of International Plastic Surgeons

All doctors and facilities are not the same. I would never question the skills of another plastic surgeon based solely on his or her location, as there are highly experienced and dedicated plastic surgeons all over the globe that deliver beautiful results in a safe and caring environment. However, there is no guarantee that a patient from another country actually chooses the best surgeon. Many international plastic surgery procedures are procured through a service that connects patients with foreign surgeons, essentially placing the decision-making process in the hands of that service.

Furthermore, what about follow-up care? My Indiana plastic surgery patients see me numerous times after their procedures. How is this effectively managed when one flies to a foreign country for a procedure? Either by planning a lengthy stay to accommodate follow-up care, or by having that care managed by an American surgeon. Frankly, I do not know many American plastic surgeons that are willing to do follow-up on elective procedures performed by a surgeon other than himself or herself.

Plastic surgery is as safe as the surgeon performing your procedure. I have an excellent safety record as a board certified Indiana plastic surgeon. While price is always a consideration in elective surgery procedures, I must stress that that factor pales in comparison to your safety, beautiful results and the convenience of the short drive of my office for post-op care.  Call me at 800-721-3244 or complete this online contact form to schedule your plastic surgery consultation today. You’ll be so glad you did!

To your health & beauty,

Gus Galante, MD, FACS
Board Certified Indiana Plastic Surgeon



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