A 2-year-old pro bono program is helping North Korean defectors better assimilate as new residents of South Korea through a unique donation of plastic surgery.
Started in 2014 by Kim Keyong-suk, a police captain in Seoul, the program is open to all of the 28,000 defectors from North Korea. Aesthetic work by prominent South Korean plastic surgeons such as Dr. Hong Jung Geun, chief surgeon at Metro Plastic Surgery, enables defectors to remove the imperfections and scars that can make living and finding a job in image-centric South Korea difficult, according to a media release from NPR.
The program includes procedures designed to remove scars, tattoos, and body abnormalities, as well as diminish signs of abuse.
“There are many ways a doctor can contribute to society,” Hong Jung Geun says in the release.
To date, the program, which includes participation from many of Seoul’s most sought-after plastic surgeons, has assisted 48 North Korean defectors. All North Korean defectors are eligible for the program, and more await their turn. These outward, aesthetic changes are particularly important because visible scars can keep individuals from fitting in with South Korean residents.
“You have to manage and care for North Korean defectors and make sure they’re protected,” Kim says, per the release.