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Perfecting the Face-Lift, Gangnam Style

Asians are flocking to Seoul clinics for cosmetic work
A billboard in a Seoul subway station advertises jaw surgery
A billboard in a Seoul subway station advertises jaw surgeryPhotograph by Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images

Kylie Vu holds up her iPhone to display a photo of her favorite South Korean actress. “I want a chin like hers,” she tells a beauty consultant at the BK Plastic Surgery clinic in Seoul. Vu, 30, budgeted $10,000 for a chin implant and face-lift and traveled more than 1,600 miles from Vietnam, where she manages five kindergartens.

The number of tourists visiting South Korea for cosmetic surgery has increased more than fivefold since 2009, to 15,428 last year, according to the country’s health ministry. Like Vu, many make a beeline for the so-called beauty belt—hundreds of clinics clustered around subway stations in Gangnam, the upscale Seoul neighborhood made famous by Korean pop singer Psy, whose Gangnam Style music video has garnered more than 1.78 billion views on YouTube.