Gaming Reviews, News, Tips and More.
We may earn a commission from links on this page

How South Korean Plastic Surgeons Make Passport Photos Worthless

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

South Korean plastic surgeons, it appears, are good at their jobs. But they might be too good for some customs officials.

Increasingly, people in neighboring countries like China or Japan visit South Korea to have work done. But when they're ready to go home, they might face a problem: Their passport pics.


According to Korean sites Onboa and Munhwa (via tipster Sang), some Korean hospitals are now issuing a "plastic surgery certificate" at the request of overseas visitors. Customs officials, of course, are strict about making sure people match the mugs in their passports. These certificates can supposedly help make clearing immigration go smoother so officials don't have to call hospitals to confirm procedures.

The certificates include the patient's passport number, the length of their stay, the name and location of the hospital as well as the hospital's official seal to certify the document. Travellers can show the forms to immigration officials on their return trip home.


This practice of issuing plastic surgery certificates apparently began three years ago, but has increased with the rising number of visitors getting plastic surgery done in South Korea.

Recently, The Korea Times reported that the increase in Chinese medical tourism was also a result of a lack of trust with Chinese doctors.

"It comes from the mistrust of the system entrenched in their psyche," said plastic surgeon Park Byong-choon told the paper. "Chinese parents come to Korea even for childbirth. The death of a young singer under a Chinese cosmetic surgeon's knife a few years ago makes people think twice about doing it at home."

According to website Onbao, the number of medical tourists that came to South Korea in 2011 was 2,545 people. Last year, that number increased to 25,176 visitors.


성형외국인 출국장서 못알아봐… 병원 '동일인' 인 [Munhwa, Thanks, Sang!]

강남 성형병원, 다 고친 중국고객 위해 '성형증명서' 발급 [Onabao]

Korea offers makeovers Chinese cannot resist [The Korea Times]

Top photo:

To contact the author of this post, write to or find him on Twitter @Brian_Ashcraft.


Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.