980,000 PROCEDURES DONE IN 2014 ALONE
19 YEARS OLD: AVERAGE AGE TO GET SURGERY
EYELIDS: MOST POPULAR SURGERY
20% OF WOMEN IN SOUTH KOREA HAVE HAD PLASTIC SURGERY COMPARED TO
5% OF WOMEN IN AMERICA WHO HAD DONE SO
Source: International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, ISAPS
WHAT IS HAPPENING?
A research in 2013 by ISAPS showed that South Koreans undergo the most plastic surgery per capita in the world. It is common for South Korean women to get their first procedure at age 19, and if they don’t do it, they are likely to stand out. Currently, surgery on their eyelids and nose are considered the “basics” of plastic surgery. A Korean woman shared that it is best to do the surgeries when they are young so that they can have their “new faces” for a longer time.
WHY IS IT A PROBLEM?
In different interviews, Korean girls shared that outward appearances are crucial in South Korean culture. They shared that plastic surgery is worth it as they will be able to live as a “perfect and beautiful woman” for the rest of their lives.
This overemphasis on beauty and physical perfection in South Korea is most demonstrated in one particular reality show called Let Me In. Each contestant on the show is given a nickname such as “Monkey,” “The Goliath,” and even “Overly Large Breasts Girl”. These contestants appeal to a panel of beauty gurus, sharing how their physical features have stopped them from living a normal life. At times, the contestants’ parents are brought onstage to apologise to their children not only for giving birth to them in this way, but also for not being able to afford plastic surgery. At the end of the show, the “new and improved” contestant usually appears to cheers from the crowd. On koreaboo.com, the writer even describes how plastic surgery is a necessity for these contestants, rather than a vanity.
The problem is not cosmetic surgery in itself — the real problem lies in the extreme emphasis the culture has put on outward appearances and perfection, and that makes this issue a crucial one that needs to be addressed.
WHY IS IT COMMON?
Yoo Ji, a university graduate, shared that the pressures of plastic surgery not only come from family but from their peers. She said, “Your friends have all done it, so you start to question whether you should try it out and if it will make you prettier.” Many Korean ladies also believe that being good-looking will get you more benefits like finding a good husband and a good job as the culture tends to focus on one’s physical attractiveness.
Also, cosmetic surgery is a crucial part of creating the K-pop image. As such, many Korean girls try to go for surgery to look as similar to their K-pop idols as possible.