Wednesday, 25 May 2016

My plastic surgery experience at MVP clinic in Seoul, South Korea

My choice for top aesthetic plastic surgeon in Korea...Dr Hyo-Seok Seo, MD.

Whether you need plastic surgery to enhance your looks, to address a congenital disfigurement or for anti-aging, with sky-rocketing UK prices of between £4,000 and £7,000 per plastic surgery procedure, it is no wonder Brits are looking abroad for top plastic surgeons who cost less. After all, we know the cost of living in the UK is high versus other countries, so surely we can get the best board certified plastic surgeons elsewhere for less. Well I went on such a journey to the other side of the world to do just that and here are my findings!

The first step was to choose the country. It became clear that Korea with its 3,000 plastic surgeons in Seoul alone has made itself into a global industry in plastic surgery for locals and foreigners. Yet we hear for approximately every 1 board certified plastic surgeon, there may be 9 who are not. And as I delved deeper, I uncovered the dark side of plastic surgery in Korea...a death of a 19-year-old patient  at the Grand Plastic Surgery Clinic in Seoul, another death of a plastic surgery patient given propofol and the sinister shadow or ghost plastic surgeons and/or anaesthetists. This practice of switching doctors or anaesthetists while a patient is asleep and substituting with a nurse or cheaper doctor has been frowned upon by the Korean government but regulation is scant and for foreigners, it is more frightening as clinics know foreigners do not know how to sue clinics especially once they leave Korea and therefore may ignore phone calls and email complaints. And if that was not enough to scare me off plastic surgery abroad, I came across a website called  written by a 47 year old Asian in California who had spent $36,000 to end up a botched victim trying in vain to correct her facial disfigurement.

Is there a safe way of approaching surgery in Korea and are there success stories? Yes! Second, you'll need to join the purse forum blog and the real self forum to read the latest updates from foreign patients either in Korea or contemplating visiting to read the list of blacklisted plastic surgery clinics in Seoul. Mind you these are poster opinions based on their personal experience of the clinic or surgeon. Still it is important you read this thread and also the ones on negative experiences under the Asian plastic surgery section of the purse forum. Yes I know it has nothing to do with designer purses but it does fall under health in this forum.

After combing through a year of postings, it became clear which clinics only get positive rave reviews from patients and which get negative reviews, for  postoperative infection or botched jobs. Reviews are useful to read which plastic surgeon uses ketamine, a hallucinogenic for anaesthesia (described as being sucked into a tunnel with vivid 3-D hallucinations) instead of benzodiazepine and opiate for twilight anaesthesia, which clinic surgeon slapped his Asian patient from Bristol  when she complained of pain intraop, which one caused a recent patient to cry out in pain 50 times during the operation and so on.

Okay I shall save you time and give you the result of my research. I chose 41-year-old Dr Hyo-Seok Seo of MVP clinic in Apgujeong, Gangam district, Seoul, South Korea as the winner as top plastic surgeon in Korea!

Magazine with examples of their work in the waiting area.

Looked at the wall and confirmed plastic surgeon Dr Seo is board certified in plastic surgery.

I ranked Dr Hyo-Seok Seo, MD, board certified plastic surgeon,  top  in Korea for aesthetics and surgical skill, based on numerous feedback and interviews with his patients, his before and after work and the amazing plastic surgery he did to rejuvenate my aging eyes!

The surgical theatre and several postop recovery rooms are on the third  floor of MVP. I ranked the anaesthesia and nursing care top. Adequate analgaesia, cleanliness, safe, non-hallucinogenic  sedation and the most caring nurses in recovery.

How do I book Dr Seo? How long is his waiting time? In Korea, clinics often reschedule local patients to fit in foreign patients with a tight schedule, so there is no waiting time of months for either a consultation or operation as in Harley Street. MVP even accepts walk-ins for consultations but the best time to catch Dr Seo is late afternoon.

Okay the next step is  to download and open a free kakao app account, much like a whats app account. I did this and this allowed me to add ellena0424, the kakao ID for MVP's English interpreter and manager (called consultant in Korea) and a blogger smitten kitten Rebecca herself to verify she had not been sponsored by MVP. Rebecca confirmed she had paid for her operations, which amounted to 5.9 million korean won or approximately $5000 or £3,300 for open rhino and revision eyelid surgery. Open rhinoplasty alone costs over £7000 in the UK! (Update April 2017: many clinics now have April and May promotions due to the ban on Chinese tour groups to S Korea. MVP are offering incision des with ptosis correction for 2 million won (~1.4 k) and rhino for 3 million won (~£2.2k)).

Then join a kakao chat group. You can find more information on groups being informally formed from the purse forum blog in the Asian plastic surgery threads. I joined the May-June in Korea kakao group of ladies heading to Korea in 2016 for plastic surgery. Here you can exchange information on $33-$55 airbnbs, make friends to go shopping at Myeongdong market or at Lotte department store and enjoy 50% off sales with an additional 10% sale days and 10% tax refunds  postop, tabulate the clinics visited and do price comparison shopping which helps enormously with bargaining your final price for your operation. One person negotiated hard in person (shared what  the direct competition was quoting, explained why he liked their excellent doctors, said it was just down to price, that he had a budget, that if they could agree on a price he would commit to them for surgery, then walked out when the price was lowered but not enough and emailed his final lowest price  which the clinic came back to him and accepted rather than lose a cash paying client. To his surprise, initially the clinic tried to suggest that 4.5 million won for eyelid surgery was the local price! Local prices are approximately 1.3 million for incision double eyelid surgery with ptosis correction. Here are the prices for local Koreans  from one clinic, translated to help you better negotiate.

I added Ellen on kakao. This enabled me to book a consultation for May 17 and tentative operation date for May 18. is brilliant at catching when prices drop for seats to Korea. It was not long before it dropped and I could book a flight on May 16. I used moneycorp online to order next day korean won at the best exchange rate, and they buy back at the same rate if you return within a month of purchase.

Hotel Gangnam Art Nouveau City II complete with kitchenette and lounge.

I stayed at the Hotel Gangnam Art Nouveau City II for £65/night x 7 days and the flight cost £545 with Korean Air. In Korea, there are 2 prices for plastic surgery, one exorbitant hiked up fee for foreigners and one super cheap price for locals. However, it is normal practice to bargain! Consultations are free with plastic surgeons in Korea and some book several consultations at different clinics in Gangnam (Beverley Hills of Korea) to then be able to haggle a final price. Offering to pay in cash helps, as does accepting a Saturday or same day or next day operation.

Ellen at MVP gave me her best price for fat grafting to the eyelids, revision incision DES (double eyelid surgery crease) and ptosis correction to achieve rejuvenated younger eyes for 3 million won minus 10% medical tax refund came out to...less than £2000! This meant with flights, hotel and the cost of the operation, plastic surgery in Korea came out to less than half the cost of UK plastic surgery on Harley Street. A good clinic will not discriminate and overcharge foreigners by 3-6x that of local patients and will issue you a medical tax receipt to receive a 10% tax refund at Incheon airport.

Gate 24, Incheon Airport for tax refund. Scan your passport and medical tax receipt and the machines spew out cash won.

Here is a photo of my eye (s), taken one week postop, already rejuvenated by decades. I had to do a double-take as my eye looks just like that of my 21-year-old daughter! For bruising I have taken bromelain tablets and a korean herbal medicine I nickname 'magic seeds', the Korean chemist insisted I needed looking at my eyes, taken tds and it has sped up resolution of  my postop bruising, after ice and warm packs only helped with postop swelling. Total cost including travel and accommodation came up to £2800 which is less than the £5000-7000 UK price for upper lid blepharoplasty with fat graft. And as an added bonus I enjoyed a week of 30°C sun in Korea to top up my low vitamin D levels living in the UK. Tanned and rejuvenated!

Revision blepharoplasty (double eyelid surgery and ptosis correction) and lid fat grafting to correct hollow eyelid sulci which occur with ageing.



Two months after

Looking 3 decades younger! Dr Seo is a miracle worker plastic surgeon for less than half Harley Street plastic surgeon fees!

Thank you Dr Seo of MVP clinic for rejuvenating my 50 year old tired eyes!

Philtrum reduction/lip lift 

As one ages, the philtrum sags to a point where there is no upper teeth show at rest and the upper lip also thins. Another anti- ageing procedure is philtrum reduction with upper lip lift. There are 2 approaches either bullhorn (at the base of the nose) or gullwing (through the vermilion border). I would recommend the bullhorn technique.

Here are my before and after photos . An added bonus is it seems to have knocked off
more years than I was expecting!

Before photo of a long 20 mm philtrum.

Postop photo showing a beautiful smile with upper teeth show at rest. The philtrum is now in balanced facial proportions.

Philtrum reduction/lip lift may result in an even younger appearance. I chose Miss Caroline Mills of 60 Wimpole Street to do my bullhorn lip lift under local anaesthetic for £2450 including the £250 consultation fee which would be the same as flying back to Korea.

The price I paid MVP for my eyes was the same as quoted other patients and this blog review is my show of gratitude to safe, top notch plastic surgery clinics in Seoul, Korea and will hopefully reduce cases of botched plastic surgery when foreigners fall foul of bad clinics. Their English-speaking manager Ellen trained in Canada and ensures patients only receive operations they require. If she and the doctors say no, it means they are protecting you from unnecessary procedures which is important as plastic surgery can become addictive. For those contemplating plastic surgery, please take this body dysmorphic disorder test to ensure you are only undergoing surgery for the right reasons.

Facial fat grafting 

For those with skin that is not sagging enough for a facelift, prp fat grafting is an anti-ageing procedure to replace the fat lost from one's face from 40 onwards. Prp fat grafting costs between £10,000 and £12,000 on Harley Street. Dr Bill Johnson of Texas charges $7,000. In Seoul, S Korea it costs between 1.2 million (for locals) and 4 million won (£800- £2,800) for fat grafting with one free top up within 6 months.

I chose top plastic surgeon 42-year-old Dr Ki-Kap Kim of DAPRS in Seoul  for facial fat grafting in July and September 2016. He studied medicine at the top and most competitive university in Korea, Seoul National University. Fat grafting is very traumatic and I would advise you go into hiding for a week, wear a cap and mask and cover all mirrors due to the extensive postop facial swelling and bruising. Fortunately your face returns to normal in a week and just as with childbirth one forgets the postop experience. After a month, 50% of the first fat graft had dissolved as had been explained by Dr Kim and needs top up to bring the fat levels to an optimal and youthful appearance, as it takes 2-3 fat grafts for more permanent results. Fat grafting also improves the complexion too and lifts sagging cheeks!

Here are my photos post my first full face fat grafting. My skin actually glowed!

Here I am post top-up fat graft with Dr Ki-Kap Kim of DAPRS clinic in September. This time I took arnica tablets and applied arnica cream which helped minimise postop bruising immensely. The day after surgery I even hopped on jejuair​ to tour Tokyo for a few days. I think I have found the Fountain of Youth in Seoul, South Korea! I certainly don't look 50!

And now for the combined result of rejuvenating the eyes, shortening the philtrum and replacing fat in the face after ageing depletes facial fat in your 40s. Here I am alongside a younger famous actress Jun Ji Hyun! The total cost for the 3 procedures was £5.7k + £3k for flights and hotels, a bargain vs £20+k for the same procedures in the UK.

Here is a youtube video exploring plastic surgery in Seoul and a must viewing before you plan your plastic surgery trip.
101 East - The cost of beauty youtube video