Plastic surgery is becoming more common everywhere and people are continuously changing their appearance to the point where they are losing their uniqueness that shapes an individual. South Korea is known as the cosmetic surgery capital of the world for many reasons that continue to influence Koreans and foreigners to invest in certain aesthetic procedures. According to the documentary ?Plastic Surgery: The Cost of Beauty’, one of the most famous plastic surgery centers called Grand Plastic Surgery is a 15-story tower facility that consists of 30 doctors and 400 staff and Apgujeong street is known as the Las Vegas strip of plastic surgery that contains endless amounts of advertisements in the streets (English). These are just brief facts that shows how widespread aesthetic surgery is. South Korean cosmetic industry is high in demand of plastic surgeries for both men and women due to the idea of standard beauty by the entertainment industry, more job and marriage opportunities, and the accessibility and affordability of these procedures in Korea than any other country.
The entertainment industry plays a huge role in shaping the idea of a standard beauty in South Korea. Yang Yoon is a professor of psychology who quotes that while plastic surgery may seem like a tool for looking better, it’s actually all about comparing one’s self to others, (English). If Yoon was right about how Koreans always strive to be better than their peers (English), then social media and the visual effects of music videos have the ability to inspire others to achieve the look as advertised on the media. One example would be the BTS documentary by BBC Radio in which this South Korean boy-band have a large fan base worldwide that even the outfits that are worn by BTS in music videos get sold out minutes after the music video gets released in public. Although this doesn’t relate much to plastic surgery, this explains Yoon’s idea, who also states that the psychology to follow what others are doing is incredibly strong in our culture (English) whether it is affecting an individual or a whole group. Social media like Snapchat is also an example because they contain filters in our photos that drive people into thinking that it is possible for them to get cosmetic surgeries similar to how they would look with the filters on. Korean girls define pretty or beautiful as having a small face, big eyes, pointy nose, light-skinned, and all the characteristics that are similar to how animes look in films or have features [to] look more Caucasian (CNN). Celebrities and other famous idols also consider getting plastic surgery and the way beauty is defined in Korea also creates an impact on business and marketing industry as well. Because all these celebrities are getting cosmetic surgery, if they look appealing on the media, then they are likely to get more viewers and make more money in the entertainment industry. This relates back to the BTS group that I had mentioned previously in which everybody wants to be blend in with Westernize looks, peers look up to celebrities and dress the way they do, obtain surgeries to have the same facial structures that celebrities portray on the media. This defeats the purpose in life of making an individual unique for who they are and not what society represents or expects them to be.
When people in South Korea consider getting cosmetic surgery, this can increase their chances of obtaining better job and marriage opportunities. South Korean students of both males and females were gathered and were given a set of questions regarding cosmetic surgery, and based on the results a majority of them considered it as an investment to enhance [their] social and economic position (Viren Swami) but why? Another example was a documentary when a foreigner had interviewed an advisor whether there’s a specific age limit to get plastic surgery and she had responded that there are no regulations regarding age limit (English). An individual can make his or her decision on any type of surgeries that they want to do with their own body and a majority of these people range from late teens and twenties. CNN is a news article that reported an eight-year old boy who made his mom call the doctor to make him look handsome. Many of these Korean families are family oriented and parents or older generations set examples of the younger generations that put pressure on their children to have good features also. The older these children get, the more they think that cosmetic surgery [would ensure] access to wealthier romantic partners (Viren Swami) and success in life.
Neo-Confucian is a ?culture of conformity’ where the unity of the whole is more important than the individuality of the one (Holliday). According to the history of Neo-Confucianism, women are required to look a certain way and consider aesthetic surgery as a continuation of pre-modern virtuous feminity, while men are expected to transcend their bodies to look more superior or to play the role as the man of the house or the leader of the family (Holliday). This shows that beauty plays a huge role in their society and still goes way back to the history of the standard beauty in Korea. Parents gift children plastic surgeries after finishing school in order to enhance looks and increase the chances of landing a job after graduation. Jobs in South Korea require head shots with their resume as an advantage in the job market. Ahn Min Yung is a plastic surgery patient who was interviewed and stated that she used to think plastic surgery was bad before but nowadays everyone calls it cosmetic surgery and everyone gets it because Korea is known for beauty (English). She also mentions that in job interviews, first impression is very important and the look at your face first. Sometimes it’s not always about your work skills, but South Korea prioritizes physical attractiveness as well. Koreans view pale skin as more luxurious while the dark -skinned are viewed as people who work outdoors or a low-class job which is why one of the most common procedures available is skin whitening. Not only does plastic surgery benefit patients who consider getting surgery, but it also increases job opportunities for other people related to the cosmetic industry now that it is continuing to grow. The number one reason why even foreigners consider flying to Korea for surgeries is because patient care post-surgery is important to Koreans as well. In order to have proper communication with these foreigners, they hire multilingual staff for overseas patients to fully communicate, and these patients get picked up at the airport by limousines [and] are greeted by staffers who speak English, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, or Mongolian (DailyTelegraph). Language barrier doesn’t stop anybody from flying into Korea for surgeries. A high demand for cosmetic surgeons, dermatologists, and other doctors are also needed to occupy facilities and maximize the patient care experience. Because there are patients from overseas, these facilities also provide special accommodations such as a hotel stay which leads to opening more job opportunities like IT for technologically advanced surgery tools and other maintenance throughout the buildings.
Foreigners travel abroad to Korea because of the accessibility and affordability of the procedures that they offer compared to other countries who offer the same procedures for double the price. It has become unnatural for Koreans to NOT get surgery because it became a lifestyle, and Korean surgeons had become so good at what they do that even people worldwide travel to Korea for good quality plastic surgeries for affordable prices. The most common surgeries in Korea are: Blepharoplasty, Glutathione Injections, and Rhinoplasties. Blepharoplasty is also known as the double eye-lid surgery where they insert a crease in the eyelid to make the eye look bigger or less sleepy. This is commonly known as the ?monolid’ into a double eyelid and the reason why many Koreans get these procedure is because 50% of the Asian population are born with monolids, [which is] intended to make [them] appear more Western (Kurek). Gluthathione injections are skin whiteners that slows pigmentation in the skin for a more fair skin tone, and as mentioned before, Koreans view the lighter skins as people who don’t work under the sun or outdoors. Rhinoplasties are nose jobs to make their nose look more pointy, as well as other surgery procedures such as forehead and chin augmentation, hair transplants, and other facial surgeries rather than body. I’ve compared the cost of rhinoplasty in two different countries and while South Korea offers a rhinoplasty procedure for $3,980, US offers this procedure for about $6,500 which is double the amount that Korea would charge their clients (Medical Tourism). US price doesn’t include what South Korea offers as far as providing hotels and other accommodations for these medical tourists for the comfort of their stay in Korea while they heal. This is the main reason why prices in the US are more expensive because every single thing is charged such as anesthesia, hospitalization fees, medication, and pressure garment (Seoul TouchUp). This is true in the US when extra fees are added or hidden fees are included in the quote given to patients which results in medical tourism to Korea where they can be accommodated and fully heal with care. South Korea targets international patients so they can bring more business into Korea as a motivator to continue expanding their cosmetic surgery industries and financial growth. One of the medical facilities called YK Plastic surgery focuses on promoting medical tourism in which they were able to get about 400,000 foreigners in 2013 and predicting a rise to 1M medical tourisms by the year 2020. Korea is also technologically advanced that they have a special kiosk for foreigners who need advice in plastic surgery where they can basically consult through a kiosk and suggest different medical centers that specialize in specific surgeries desired (English).
Different countries have their own special norms in which people often fall into the latest trends on what they see on social media or every day lives. While US has a high popularity in body surgeries and breast implants, Korea is more focused on facial and cosmetic surgeries. Plastic surgery is high in popularity in today’s society and it has become more of a norm, not just in Korea, although Korea has the largest population of people who are constantly getting procedures. The idea that cosmetic surgery is considered for different factors such as investment in appearance, social conformity, internalization of media messages about appearance, celebrity worship, and materialistic values (Viren Swami) is an absurd way of spending money for self-satisfaction. The standard beauty that the social media portrays, the increase in job and marriage opportunities, as well as the easy access and the affordability of these aesthetic procedures in South Korea continue to increase the success and popularity in this industry that both South Korean men and women, as well as tourists who are all various ages consider getting a procedure. Although people are able to make their own decisions on what they want to do with their body, younger generations don’t have to believe that enhancing looks won’t always be the only way for happiness and success in life.
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