Cosmetic surgery in Korea exploded: In search of outstanding beauty

 Plastic surgery in Korea is the highest per capita in the world. But whether Koreans are crazy about “extreme” beauty?

"I just want to be prettier."

As a 20-year-old woman living in Seoul, South Korea and working in the TV industry, G decided to change his face for personal and professional reasons. She decided to have plastic surgery to lift her nose and was satisfied with the results. A few years later, she had surgery to create puffiness. Confident in his new look, G is delighted that facial features have begun to affect his life. She told HuffPost she felt more confident and extroverted after the surgery.

In Korean culture , cosmetic surgery is seen as a cosmetic enhancement or enhancement. Therefore, people consider it normal for all ages, from teenagers to the elderly.

A Korean woman walks past a billboard for jaw surgery at a subway station in Seoul, South Korea.

Dr. Joo Kwon, CEO of JK Plastic Surgery Center, one of the largest plastic surgery clinics in Korea and the only clinic officially recognized by the Korean government, expressed : “Many patients are satisfied with their appearance but want a little tweaking or want to stay youthful. If they feel that something in their appearance is hindering their quality of life, they will correct it. ”

Today, many people consider Korea as the " capital of plastic surgery " of the world. It is home to the highest number of per capita plastic surgeries, with more than 600 clinics in Seoul alone. In 2011 alone, the International Association of Plastic Surgeons estimated that nearly 650,000 plastic surgery procedures were performed in Korea.

A woman had double eyelid surgery.

Foreigners traveling to Korean aesthetics also expanded significantly. About 50,000 foreign patients received plastic surgery in the country in 2018, spending about $ 189 million on double eyelid surgery, jaw surgery and other modifications.

When did cosmetic surgery in Korea emerge?

Plastic surgery first entered Korean culture after the Korean War in the late 1950s and early 1960s. American military doctors performed double eyelid surgery to fix a single eyelid. of indigenous peoples, considered as a means to rapidly renovate the war-ravaged peninsula.

In 1974, the Supreme Court of Korea approved cosmetic surgery as a medical practice, providing legalization and creating a rapidly growing foundation for this form of beauty.

South Korea's obsession with plastic surgery is shifting from eye and nose surgery to full correction that requires months of recovery. 

Now, plastic surgery has become a cultural feature of Korea . It is not uncommon that high school students get gifts from their parents is a plastic surgery. There are tons of apps, YouTube videos, and blogs that reveal each person's experience in choosing the right clinic and surgery.

While Korean men have recently increasingly turned to plastic surgery to change their looks, women are still the dominant players in this market. According to a 2015 survey by Gallup Korea, 14% of South Korean women have had plastic surgery, and this number rises to 30% for the 20-year-old group. In contrast, the Pew Research survey found Only 7% of women in the US have plastic surgery, with breast augmentation and liposuction being the most common.


What motivates plastic surgery in Korea

Many Western scholars believe that the popularity of plastic surgery in Korea suggests that the people of this country are pursuing whiteism. But Korean scholars disagree. According to them, plastic surgery in Korea has real meaning, not frivolity.

So Yeon Leem, a researcher at Seoul National University, said: “Cosmetic surgery to look more like whites than was the old trend before the 1990s. Today, Korean women want to achieve a beauty. global through plastic surgery. It is not true that Koreans value looks over other societies. Western culture has its own obsession with beauty standards. ”

"Americans place a lot of emphasis on the body, so you'll see a higher rate of breast augmentation and fat absorption in Korea," said Kwon. The beauty standards of each country are different, so cosmetic surgery procedures are also different. ”

Picture of the movie "Thousand pounds beauty". Alfred "Haeppy" Leung, a Youtuber in Seoul, explains that the beauty stereotypes Koreans are trying to achieve with plastic surgery are based on long-standing Korean beauty standards, have little to do with Western beauty standards.

They argue that outsiders have overly rated Koreans for their harsh and extremely beautiful standards, not noticing that there are still rules of education and development.

"For Koreans, cosmetic surgery is not simply" normal "or" standard "but also" superior ". Compared with the obsession of education or religion, the explosion of plastic surgery in Korea is almost nothing, ”said So Yeon Leem.

Negative consequences and backlash in Korean society

However, social pressure to become "superior" also comes with negative consequences. Ashley Kim, 29, remembers her family. They always commented on her appearance when she was young and often advised her to get plastic surgery, like "Why don't you have a nose done?" or "Nobody wants to marry someone with a nose like that", "Must change now".

"Koreans believe they can not find a job or find a husband, not even recognized without good looks by the standards," the 29-year-old girl afflicted.

Koreans believe that without good looks, it will be difficult to find a job and get married

Kim said she worries about the limitless nature of self-improvement and as if there are countless ways to modify and retouch faces.

“You fix a point on the face, then the rest becomes incorrect. So, you find ways to get the symmetry again, but you can never be so perfect. "

Perhaps because of the ubiquitous nature of plastic surgery in Korea , a backlash against Korean beauty expectations has repeatedly emerged.

Seoul Metro banned plastic surgery ads from the city's subway stations in response to criticism against the large number of ads that encouraged editing.

The "Escape the Corset" movement, pioneered by photographer Jeon Bora, honors beautiful women that defy common sense, creating a new space for women to freely talk about the pressure to be beautiful in Korea.

Famous artists become the template for editing. So, if you travel to Korea, do not be surprised if you see someone ... familiar. 

But for many Korean women, the decision to have cosmetic surgery cannot be categorized lightly as self-improvement or calling for help. The beauty standards in Korean society, though flawed and biased, are not as harsh as the media paints them.

Leem says that the simple understanding of plastic surgery in Korea is that it is oppressive. Such a viewpoint will make the plastic surgeon unable to be open, satisfied, confident and hopeful.

The Korean people assert that, plastic surgery is not an obsession, but a tool for confidence and hope. Photo: Vogue

For example, with G, she has no regrets for having plastic surgery, believing that the changes in appearance bring significant benefits to her.

“Certainly a part of me is more confident because there is a way for the beauty on the outside to be as great as the inside. Many people say that what's on the inside is more important than the beauty on the outside, but I don't think it has to be separate. " 

See also:  Korean travel taboos, everyone must 'memorize'


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