No ifs and buts – the idea of getting laser eye surgery is an intimidating one for many. So the question I get most often when I say I’m doing LASIK in Seoul is – why?
The short answer is: Lower costs and to try a different experience.
While procedures in Singapore average $4,000, a LASIK session starts from $1,000 in Seoul at private clinics. And while that alone is reason enough to have anyone consider, I was also curious about the experience of doing it in South Korea.
I first entertained the idea after watching a few creators on TikTok share their positive experiences online, but afraid of any sponsorship bias, I took to Google to do my research.
My findings led me to Glory Seoul eye clinic. Although their website testimonials were a little too effusive for me, the ones on Google felt reliable. (And no, the name connection to the as-then unreleased popular Netflix series was not on my mind.)
My appointments were then made for March.
On surgery day
Come the day, I made my way to their location in Gangnam. An English-speaking staff, Gana, greeted me when I registered at the counter.
She quickly briefed me on the eye tests before we moved up a level to go through six stations.
I had high myopia of almost 800 degrees, with mild astigmatism and the onset of presbyopia due to my age. At 46, I had a thick cornea that gave me more options, and slight dryness in my right eye.
With these results, I went up another level to meet with Dr. Kim. After some additional checks, he suggested three procedures, and outlined how they would help with my condition.
Gana then led me to another consultation room for a more in-depth discussion of the costs and each option’s pros and cons.
IFS Lasik, LBV Lasik or Arti Plus?
In short, IFS Lasik was the cheapest option at $1,300, but required two to three days of recovery. LBV Lasik was $1,800 but required only a day’s recovery. The final option was for an IOL procedure called Arti Plus, where a corrective lens would compensate for both my short-sightedness and presbyopia together, but was $6000. I chose the LBV Lasik.
Here’s the kicker: If you agree, you can have the procedure on the same day itself, and the consultation fee of $50 will be waived. Having already decided to go ahead beforehand, I found myself briefed on what to expect during the procedure before making payment.
In the surgery room
The surgery was on the top floor, and it being a weekday, my turn came within 10 minutes. I wore a shower cap and was led into the operating room – not unlike going to a dentist in its casualness. I laid down flat on the bed and it was only then I noticed the ceiling with printed clouds – no doubt to calm anxious patients.
He quickly swabbed around my eye to sterilise the area, and at this point, Gana was still standing beside me, and asked if I needed a stress ball to squeeze on.
I declined – I was logical that way.
The procedure was quick and painless, if a little unnerving because of how little one felt.
The entire eye surgery took all of five minutes. As soon as I sat up, I was surprised at how clear everything was. I was led to sit and rest for a bit before given my prescription. This was outside of the total cost but only came up to $30. After that, just as easily as I walked in, I was good to go.
It felt odd to stroll out with perfect vision, albeit with sunglasses to protect the eyes from UV rays. But being by myself and with the anaesthetic eye drops wearing off, I quickly made my way back to the hotel.
I made it back without incident. But once the effects of the numbing drops faded, I found it hard to keep my eyes open – even to read my phone. There was no pain but even the dim lights felt too bright.
While I was somewhat still sensitive to light, I could open my eyes and the discomfort was minimal. By 3PM, I headed out for my appointment and removed the protective lens that was on my cornea. Dr. Kim said all was good and slated the next standard review a week later.
The worst bits of recovery were having to use eyedrops frequently to prevent eye discomfort and promote recovery, and wearing sunglasses for a month when outside. But otherwise, the slight halo effect at night improved over the period.
I was in Seoul for a few months so I did return for a few more optional rounds of review with the doctor (all inclusive).
But otherwise I will repeat what most others have said after laser eye surgery – it’s likely a decision you’ll wish you had made sooner.