Life in Korea

Getting LASIK surgery in Korea

To no surprise, South Korea’s “Plastic Surgery Craze” has become one very big reason people travel to Korea. Medical tourism is one thing I’d recently learned about having lived here and actually read it on tourism posters. Seoul and Busan’s subways are filled with posters and advertisements for leading plastic surgeons in the area. These people promise to make you have your dream look, sometimes at more reasonable prices than in the USA. Speaking from experience, I chose to come to Korea for 3 reasons:

1. To pay off my student loan debt

2. To gain in-class teaching experience

and 3. To get LASIK correctional eye surgery.

With it being so easily attainable, and 4-5x cheaper than in the US, I knew it was something I had to do before I left Korea. 

Technically it was my first surgery that wasn’t done out of necessity, but I justified it to myself by saying it was definitely needed. My vision wasn’t so bad, but being an avid traveler and adventurer it’s a hassle to bring contacts and glasses everywhere. After I made my decision I went around asking other foreigners that have done the surgery and their experiences with all the different kinds. I learned that there isn’t just one kind of LASIK surgery and depending on your budget and your eyes you may not get to choose which one you can have. I also learned there is the LASEK, which is supposedly more painful and requires more recovery time, that is much cheaper than the LASIK.

After deciding that I wanted the LASIK, as I only had a 3 day weekend to recover, I found a clinic in Busan that was highly recommended called “Nunevit” or “Happy eyes” clinic. It’s located conviniently in the Lotte Hotel (attached to the Lotte Department store) in one of the busiest parts of Busan. It even has it’s own floor!

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No this isn’t rome, it’s the Lotte Department store~ This landmark helped me navigate my way around the underground as it’s next to the entrance of the hotel.

I walked in just looking for a consultation and to take all the necessary tests to see what I qualified for, and I walked out with the surgery. They can be very convincing! This isn’t the first time I read about someone being convinced to get the surgery right then and there!

The tests ranged from standard “What letter do you see” to “lets suck your eye into this little machine to check the nerves” and it was less than pleasant. The tests took about an hour or 2 because there were so many! I think that’s great, because then they can get a complete picture of your eye’s condition… literally.

After the test I was put into a little sterilized room where had to wear awesome booties and a hair cap. I then shuffled into the Hydration Room where they sit you down and put a liquid in your eyes to moisten them for about 45 minutes. Then it was my turn.

I was walked over to the first table where they do the first incision of the LASIK, and then, when the little flap was hangin’ out in the air, I was moved by the nurses to the next table. This made me nervous because no one I’d ever talked to had to stand and walk in order to get to the laser. By then I was already panicking a bit when the laser started going off. You’re supposed to sit still and stare into the light while listening and smelling your own eye getting zapped.

I know it sounds terrible, but it really wasn’t that bad. My anxiety had the best of me. You can not feel a thing when they are doing the surgery, but the fact that you’re awake is enough to rattle your nerves for sure!

The whole thing took about 5 minutes and then I was back in the hydration room. I was then escorted into the underground of the busy Lotte department store to get some eye drops and then back up into the hotel where they booked my stay.

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My totally sexy sleeping goggles to be worn at night for a coupe weeks.

To say I didn’t feel pain after the numbness wore off would be a lie. I feel the worst pressure and pain, which was completely unexpected. Even still, after having slept a few hours I woke up and it felt much better. I was able to walk around Busan the next day and enjoy the beach for a bit before heading back to my home in Mokpo.

Recovery was a bit of an up and down over the next few months. I think the worst part of recovery is the light sensitivity. It’s really rough in the first month, but gets better as time goes on. I also had issues, and still do, with very dry eyes. About 3 months after up until 10 months, I had some problems with headaches and black to white sensitivity. These are not something I ever had a problem with before the surgery. Looking back I definitely wish I would have done some more research on the different kinds and side effects, rather than focusing solely on recovery time and pain..

That being said, I definitely think this is something everyone should do! But I really recommend that everyone look into all the possible options first and the possible side effects before making this big decision.


  1. Wow! How adventurous of you! I would be very scared to have surgery done abroad. Do you speak Korean? How were you able to navigate that part of the surgery–speaking to them, arranging things, signing legal documents, etc?


    1. I do speak minimal Korean, basically enough to get by and have a basic conversation. That being said, in bigger cities like Seoul and Busan you can get away with speaking English. My doctor and the man doing the preliminary tests both spoke fluent English. The documents were also in English. It was a bit nerve-wracking, but I read about having the procedure done in Korea and despite my optometrist in the US telling me it would be a bad idea (ethnocentrism at play here) I did it anyway and it went perfectly… I mean, they have the latest technology here!


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