When we are watching South Korean TV series, it is not hard for us to notice that many actors and actresses seem to have flawless and youthful faces, most of which are characterized by large eyes with double eyelids, well-defined noses, fair skin and small chins. However, these perfect faces are not natural but the creations of the plastic surgeons. Undergoing plastic surgery to get attractive faces is not exclusive to the celebrities in South Korea; instead, it is surprisingly popular nationwide.
According to WordAltas, it was reported that South Korea ranked third in the total number of cosmetic procedures in 2015 around the world, with 1,156,234 surgeries had been undergone, and around 20% of the women between the ages of 20 and 49 claimed to have had at least one cosmetic procedure in their life. (Pariona)
South Korea is well known for its plastic surgery craze now, but at the very beginning, plastic surgery was not meant to be a way for people to pursue beauty in South Korea. It was after the Korean World War that first plastic surgery was provided by the American occupational forces to repair the wounds of the maimed war victims. Around 1970s, the plastic surgery began to be applied for the pursuit of beauty, and plastic surgery industry came into being, with surgeons going abroad to learn from plastic surgeons in Europe and the United States.
However, undergoing plastic surgery for better appearance had not been widely accepted in South Korea, and profoundly affected by Confucius’s teachings, many people held negative attitude to this practice at that time. But this still could not stop plastic surgery from being popular——in the past decades, the South Koreans’ attitude towards the plastic surgery have become increasingly optimistic and plastic surgery have gradually become commonplace in South Korea.
The huge shift of the public’s attitude towards plastic surgery is obviously not by accident; the plastic surgery craze in South Korea nowadays is closely related to the following factors: the economic growth, the social atmosphere, the development of the plastic surgery industry.
The economic growth in South Korea has provided material conditions for plastic surgery craze. In1960, the GDP per capita of South Korea was 158.237 US dollars while the world average GDP per capita was 450.724 US dollars. (World Bank national accounts data). South Korea was such a poverty-stricken country that people there had to strive for their basic necessaries and the pursuit of better appearance was dismissed.
However, nowadays, because of the industrialization, South Korea has great achievements in economy, being the eleventh largest economy in the world. Given that most South Koreans do not need to worry about basic material conditions and have more money in hand, they tend to drift their attention to their appearance and thereby show more willingness to undergo plastic surgery for beauty.
Besides the material conditions, the social atmosphere in South Korea also stimulates the South Koreans to undergo plastic surgery. In South Korea, people place immense importance in appearance and they believe that outstanding appearance plays an importance role in finding a lover and a promising job in a strongly competitive society. Knowing that the plastic surgery can improve people’s appearance, the South Koreans see undergoing plastic surgery as an investment and a shortcut to success.
For example, it was reported by VICE that parents usually make their children undergo plastic surgery after they graduate from high schools so that their children can be more confident and have a brighter future.(Standen) Besides, different from the situations in China, where many people are ashamed of acknowledging having undergone the plastic surgery, in South Korea, people see undergoing plastic surgery as common as wearing makeup and they can even share their experience in undergoing plastic surgery with their friends in public.
Moreover, in recent years, as the entertainment industry in South Korea develops, K-Pop have gain overwhelming popularity among South Koreans, especially the younger ones. Attracted by the flawless faces of the K-Pop stars, many South Koreans have undergone plastic surgery, in the hope of being as good-looking as those K-Pop stars. Having been immersed in such social atmosphere for a log time, the South Koreans tend to be accustomed to plastic surgery and become obsessed with it.
While the social atmosphere in South Korea creates large demand on the plastic surgery, the plastic surgery craze still cannot come into being without the development of plastic surgery industry. It is noteworthy that the quality of the cosmetic surgery in this country is generally high because of the highly qualified and experienced plastic surgeons. In South Korea, it is said that surgeons in Korea had to go through practice after practice, where only the top 1% who graduate from medical school become qualified surgeons. (Plastic surgery in Korea)
This, to some extent, boost the confidence of South Koreans in undergoing plastic surgery. Moreover, the prices of undergoing plastic surgery are relatively low in South Korea. According to THE NEW YORKER, although the cost of procedures and services in South Korea varies tremendously, but it is common to pay a third of what it would cost in the United States.(Marx) In order to further expand the market, many plastic surgery hospitals invest large amount of money to advertisements. People can see advertisements promoting various cosmetic procedures almost everywhere in South Korea, which, to some extent, lure people to undergo plastic surgery.
Therefore, with advantages of high quality and affordable prices, the prosperous plastic surgery contributes a lot to the craze for plastic surgery in South Korea.
In conclusion, the craze for plastic surgery among South Koreans is mainly caused by the prosperity of economy, a distinct social atmosphere, and the development of the plastic surgery industry.
Although the plastic surgery craze has brought billions of dollars revenue to South Korea,(Bon) it will cause many social problems sooner or later, one of which may be the vicious spiral of undergoing plastic surgery—if all South Koreans were to undergo plastic surgery and have better appearance, some people would have to undergo plastic surgery again so that they more good-looking than those who have undergone plastic surgery once; as this situation continue to worsen, people may eventually lose their own personality and have no idea who they truly are. Before things go bad from worse, it is necessary for the government of South Korea to control this craze for plastic surgery.
Amber Pariona. WorldAltas, Apr. 25, 2017, https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-number-of-cosmetic-surgery-procedures-by-country.html,
Accessed to 24 June 2018
Camille Standen. VICE, May. 14, 2013,https://www.vice.com/gr/article/avnb7z/south-korean-parents-are-making-their-kids-get-plastic-surgery Accessed to 24 June 2018
The World Bank, https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.CD?locations=KR&view=chart, https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.CD?view=chart Accessed to 24 June 2018
Patricia Marx. THE NEW YORKER?Mar.23,2015, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/03/23/about-face, Accessed to 24 June 2018
Sarah Bon. THE RICHEST, Jan.16,2018, https://www.therichest.com/expensive-lifestyle/billion-dollar-industry-to-be-plastic-surgery-in-south-korea/ Accessed to 24 June 2018