Prior to studying plastic surgery in an academic environment, I had never realized how prevalent the industry was in Asia. I stumbled across a tumblr that is dedicated to showing before and after photos of Koreans who had undergone plastic surgery and it is initially striking that the results appear quite similar from person to person. Patients sought out eye widening, face slimming, nose bridge enhancement and two that struck me were head rounding surgeries and calf reduction surgeries. As discussed by Cho Joo-hyun, “concerns over the body in this era of culture” have sky rocketed after the IMF crisis and care services as well as beauty practices and consumerism became prevalent in Korean society among both men and women. Korean culture today deems that those who are in need of aesthetic improvements and do not seek out cosmetic surgeries or modern body care services are considered either “poor or negligent in her or her humane duties.”
Plastic surgery promotion in Korea is heavily concentrated in major city squares as noted on the blog, there are often 4-5 clinics in one area some of which are only 3 blocks apart, many of which are conveniently located next to fast food restaurants and shopping malls. Many of the posts on the blog are Korean patients defending plastic surgery and treating procedures like an “art form.” Some even refer to the blog as a medical tourism blog. Curing body problems has become a common theme among all citizens regardless of social class. As a result, the improvement of human capital seems to have a significant impact on society. Improved physical appearance seems to correlate highly to better jobs and better marriages. Neoliberal ideals, as mentioned by Cho Joo-hyun has created a culture that relies on self empowerment through things like sexual attractiveness, a healthy body and regular self care practices.
Business Insider claims in a recent article that all Koreans strive for the same look, “Light skin, tiny nose, wide eyes with double lids, and a small face with a V-shaped chin.” While this statement is an extreme assumption that all Koreans are obsessed with plastic surgery and this particular image, it is clear that beauty practices have heavily influenced what beauty means in Korean culture. Obsession in body changes are less of a fad in today’s Korean society and are likely to stay ingrained into the culture as a staple of power within the community. (Cho Joo-hyun)