Designer vaginas in South Korea: we talk to Asia’s first cosmetic laser vaginal surgeon
- Lee Hyeong-kuen’s clients come from all over the world for laser procedures to shrink, tighten and smooth their private parts
- Labiaplasty is the fastest growing cosmetic surgery procedure worldwide
Sinsa is a popular Seoul neighbourhood just a stone’s throw from Gangnam station, hot spot for plastic surgery in South Korea. It is home to the first Apple store in the country and is surrounded by independent fashion stores. Take a turn into any of the side streets, and you’ll find some of Seoul’s trendiest boutiques and cafes.
Despite the many attractions within the area, there is one building that catches the attention of many tourists, foreigners or English speakers who walk by. People look up, point and let out a giggle at the sight of a huge hoarding on a building on the main stretch of the street advertising the RIZ Cosmetic Laser Vaginal Surgery. Others glide swiftly through its doors.
My curiosity piqued, I ask South Koreans about the services it provides. Charlie Han, 30, a personal trainer says, “Oh, I know a friend of a friend who’s had a procedure to tighten their vagina. She said, once she got it done, she was able to get better sexual satisfaction from Korean men rather than foreigners.”
Such conversations seem to take place way too often in South Korea. When the topic of vaginal cosmetic treatment comes up, few will admit to having undergone the procedure – but, funnily enough, you often find them talking about somebody who knows someone who “did it”.
Dr Lee Hyeong-kuen is the CEO of RIZ Cosmetic Laser Vaginal Surgery. Asked how many women he has performed the surgery on in the past 17 years, he says they are too numerous to count. His clients come not just from South Korea, but across Asia.
“A majority come from China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Russia, America, Brazil – basically all over the world. I would say 50 per cent international clients and 50 per cent Koreans,” he says.
Before opening Asia’s first cosmetic vaginal laser surgery clinic, Lee specialised in perinatology – treating patients with pregnancy complications and providing care for both the mother and her unborn child.
In that role he heard a lot of accounts from women receiving postnatal care. “The reason why a lot of people are divorcing is due to dissatisfaction with their sex lives,” Lee says. Operating to tighten a woman’s vagina – vaginoplasty – allows couples to experience sex as it was before the woman gave birth, he says.
“This procedure is able to provide a family with a happier life, and when a family is happier it contributes to society,” he says.
The use of micro-laser technology to tighten and shrink the vagina, target fat and eliminate wrinkles to smooth out the skin around the labia is a procedure that is increasingly sought after.
Labiaplasty, or labia reduction, is the fastest growing cosmetic procedure in the world, with the number of operations carried out increasing 23 per cent year on year, recent figures from The International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery show.
Newlywed Kim, 32, wouldn’t mind having vaginal rejuvenation in future, she says. “There is a Korean word, keumshil, and it means marital chemistry and sexual compatibility. If the older generations say that they have good keumshil, it means they are a happy couple with a happy marriage. A good sex life is good for marriage. It might also help restore a woman’s confidence once they’ve given birth.”
Yan, 29 and from Hong Kong, who is on holiday in Seoul for a long weekend, has a different opinion. “I don’t object to it but I won’t do it,” she says.
In spite of the popularity of labiaplasty, the procedure has side effects. Kim Yi-youn, a gynaecologist and obstetrician from Y Queen Woman Clinic, also based in the Gangnam neighbourhood, says: “Some surgical methods used to remove the skin of the labium [to change their appearance] could cause an increase in pigmentation as time goes by. The biggest side effect is if the procedure goes wrong. Therefore, it is important to find experts who specifically focus on labiaplasty.”
Lee explains the rise in demand for vaginal cosmetic surgery. “First is to treat infections and discomfort, second is for cosmetic reasons. Women want to be more visually appealing when it comes to sex, particularly oral sex,” he says. “It’s competition, especially in Asia because appearance is so important.
“By pursuing cosmetic beauty in the vagina area it leads to equal opportunity. People prepare themselves to be better looking. It’s the same concept as having a Brazilian wax.”
I mention to Lee what the personal trainer told me about a friend of a friend having the operation, and Lee interrupts. “No! Wait a second,” he says. “Women’s vaginas come in different sizes too.”