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My, what big eyes you have: Young Chinese drive Korea's plastic surgery boom

As incomes rise in China, young people are more focused on beauty, and more of them are coming to South Korea on beauty tours in search of that 'get ahead' look.

Director Wang Xiaoshuai (R) poses with Chinese actress Fan Bingbing (2nd L) during a photocall for the film "Rizhao Chongqing" (Chongqing Blues) at the 63rd Cannes Film Festival May 13, 2010. Fan Bingbing is one of a growing number of young wealthy Chinese who have undergone plastic surgery to enlarge her eyes.

Jean-Paul Pelissier / Reuters

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On the streets of Apgujeong, the Seoul neighborhood that is ground zero for plastic surgery in Asia, there are new faces looking to get lifted. The latest boost to South Korea’s booming beauty industry? China's wealthy.

“As incomes rise in China, people are more focused on beauty, and more and more of them are coming to Korea” in search of it, says Sung Min-yun, head of a consulting firm that specializes in the cosmetic surgery industry here. In 2010, he adds, the number of Chinese clients leapt nearly fivefold from the year before.

Take Su Hong, for example. A vivacious student from Beijing, she was visiting the “ID Clinic” here one recent afternoon to see about her jaw line.

It is too square, she worries, and she is ready to spend more than $4,500 to have it smoothed out. A more oval face, she says, will get her “a better job, a nicer boyfriend, and a reflection in the mirror that I will like more.”

Her mother, she explains, will pay for the operation. “I inherited my jaw from my mum, and she hates hers, too,” says Ms. Su. “She is happy to help me.”


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