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Wednesday, July 30, 2014, 08:31

Cosmetic surgery clinic set to make a pretty penny

By Xie Yu in Shanghai

The first jointly invested South Korea-China cosmetic surgery clinic in Shanghai is set to open next month, as more Chinese people are willing to go under the knife to improve their looks.

"Chinese customers now account for 60 percent of the cosmetic surgery market in South Korea," said Yang Yunyun, chief project manager of the South Korea-backed Saint Baum Aesthetic Hospital.

Data provided by the South Korean embassy in China shows about 1 million Chinese getting medical tourism visas to visit South Korea in 2012. A considerable portion of them had surgery done on their eyelids, nose or chin.

Along with the surgery, they also took in the sights and went shopping.

But Yang's hospital stands ready to reverse that trend when it opens next month.

"The fact is that not all the people want to have surgery in a strange country. Many would prefer to do it in a familiar environment, and convalesce at home, which gives a sense of security and relaxation, and that is where we come in," Yang said.

Saint Baum, located in Shanghai's northern Bund area, is worth the investment of 10 billion won ($9.7 million). Seventy percent of the investment comes from South Korea-based Enjiness Ltd Saint Baum, and 30 percent is from two Chinese firms. The private hospital plans to go public in China within five years, Yang said.

Many beauty salons in China claim to use Korean treatments or to hire South Korean doctors, but Saint Baum is the first hospital held by a Korean firm to get a hospital license from the Shanghai authorities. The hospital hired several senior South Korean doctors, each licensed as a foreign doctor by the Chinese health authorities.

It is hard to estimate how many people in China get cosmetic surgery each year, as not all surgeries are done at licensed hospitals.

But according to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the value of China's plastic surgery market surpassed 300 billion yuan ($45 billion) in 2011 (0.6 percent of GDP) and is booming with an annual growth of 40 percent.

"Apart from traditional spending on housing, cars, electronics and traveling, Chinese people are spending more on their looks, and the plastic surgery market is becoming the latest growth pole of consumption," said Jiang Zhi, CEO of popular mobile phone application ZhenYouMei (meaning genuine, good and beautiful in Mandarin).

The app creates a cybercommunity in which people can share their experience or diaries of getting plastic surgery, and to which hospitals can release information. It has attracted about 200,000 registered users and 4,000 hospitals providing cosmetic surgeries.

"Most of the users are women aged between 20 to 45. Fifty-eight percent of them are white-collar workers, with a middle-to-high income and education background. It is worth noting, 1 to 2 percent of the surgeries are done on men," Jiang said.

Cosmetic surgery is becoming more available, and is a part of people's pursuit of confidence and better life quality, he said.

Sun Feng, a surgeon with Xijing Cosmetic Surgery Hospital in Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi province, said the hospital has received more than 400 clients daily since the beginning of July. Xinhua News Agency reported that 80 percent of them are students, seeking prettier faces to advance in their studies or careers.

"I don't think cosmetic surgery is a big deal nowadays. It sounded risky and serious before, but not necessarily nowadays. You could finish a beauty injection on the face or lips in several hours," said Vivien Xiao, 33, a nail salon owner in Shanghai.

The State Council announced in March it was relaxing market entry requirements for the private sector to build health institutions, and the authorities in April granted private hospitals the right to make pricing decisions and adopt flexible charging methods.

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