What’s The Deal With South Korea And Plastic Surgery?

image - Flickr / Eugene Kim
image – Flickr / Eugene Kim

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

Apparently, that quote doesn’t hold much credibility for South Koreans, unless you have had some sort of plastic surgery. The distinction of having the highest rate of cosmetic surgery per capita in the world goes to South Korea.

My high cheekbones, narrow eyes, and not-so-pale complexion are all parts of me that I love. Funnily enough, these are the areas where South Koreans want and are willing to get rid of in favor of the “Western Look,” fueled by a male-dominated media and a distorted image of the traditional Korean values of what it means to be a woman, such as childlike femininity and innocence.

After looking through artist Ji Yeo’s Beauty Recovery Room last month, I wonder why so many would go through this. Some say for higher success in jobs and marriage prospects. But, what really stood out were the reasons of wanting the “Western Look.” I just kept on thinking, how does bigger/wider eyes, smaller/minimized cheekbones, v-shaped jaws, higher and narrow noses, and pale complexions equal to the looks of diverse populations of the Western Hemisphere?

I admit that the trend of plastic surgery for the 20-somethings in South Korea is not surprising to me. I’ve seen distant cousins and their subtle yet dramatic transformations. Also, I’ve watched K-Pop and other Korean media while being stuck at family gatherings.

Being part of both worlds as a Korean-American, I’ve written out my thoughts to this disturbing trend. Yes, disturbing because plastic surgery in South Korea is so commonplace as ordering a latte from Starbucks. One in five have gotten plastic surgery and that statistic will increase in the near future.

I just hope that this impossible standard of “beauty” will be put to an end. And people realize the true beauty inside themselves and in others. TC mark

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