A new trend in gifts for parents is emerging in South Korea. Many young people are paying for their elderly folk to undergo cosmetic procedures to look younger.
Hahm Si-ok, 59, has wanted treatment for her skin blemishes all her life but never had the chance to do it until now. Her two daughters surprised her one day, saying they would foot the bill so their mother could get the care she always yearned for.
"One of my daughters is getting married next month. I think she offered to pay for this treatment because she wants me to look good for the wedding and for her friends," she said.
Retired 75-year-old Wang Young-shik began losing hair in his 50s. He has tried wigs, sprays, acupuncture, and even medication to cover his baldness, but nothing has worked.
Wang's three children suggested hair transplant surgery at this clinic in the heart of Seoul's Gangnam district. They would also pay the US$3,000 in medical costs to undergo the procedure.
"My children mentioned to me several times that they wanted to help their father look younger before he got any older. They were so adamant and they thought it was their filial duty, so I accepted and decided to get the procedure," Wang said.
South Korea has the highest rate of plastic surgeries per capita in the world, according to some estimates. It is a US$5billion industry in this country.
But plastic surgery is not just limited to youngsters. Retired baby boomers with longer life expectancies are opting for cosmetic procedures to improve their quality of life, often at the expense of their children.
Professor Lee Ho-sun, from Korea Soongsil Cyber University, is an expert in elderly counseling. She says the increase in older patients getting plastic surgery is indicative of the changing social landscape.
"In an era when more people are living to a hundred years old, people understand it's not good for their mental health to live their senior years in misery and despair. People want to take care of, love, and express themselves. The number of seniors will only increase and this trend of looking younger will grow," she said.