In South Korea, one in three young women has plastic surgery
South Korea has the highest rated of plastic surgery per capita in the world. In a 2020 survey 31% of women in their thirties said they’d had plastic surgery.
10%South Koreans who’ve had surgery. (Percentage of 1500 random participants interviewed by telephone)
This is similar to a survey in 2015 that determined that about one third of women between 20-30 have had surgery.
K-Beauty is power
Beauty is very important in South Korea, in fact ‘K-Beauty, along with ‘K-Pop’ is one of it’s biggest cultural exports. K-beauty refers to a certain type of scaled-back natural beauty focusing on soft, dewy skin rather than over-embellishing makeup. In 2019 over 90,000 foreigners, including many Americans and Chinese, travelled to South Korea for plastic surgery, searching for that celebrated ‘K-Beauty’ look. According to a global survey, K-beauty is one of the most popular emerging trends of South Korea. Korean beauty products are most popular in the UAE and Indonesia but are widely popular in many parts of South East Asia and the Middle East.
It’s all in the eyes
The most popular operations are double eyelid surgery, eye-widening, face-scultping and jaw-reduction. With eye-widening patients are given a ‘double-eyelid,’ removing a layer of fat around the eyes and making the eyes look larger. Chin reduction is also popular as South Koreans’ idea of beauty has narrower jaw lines than westerners. The ultimate aim is to have a perfectly ovular face with large eyes, a bit like in Manga (or Manhwa in Korea). This differs from surgery in America where liposuction and breast enhancements are more popular.
So does South Korea deserve the title ‘Plastic Surgery Nation’, as it has been named by many western media outlets? In fact it’s not so much South Korea that is obsessed with plastic surgery, but Seoul. More than half of South Korea’s private clinics are based in the capital and 75% of those are in the fashionable Gangnam district. Psy’s “Gangnam Style” mocks this trendy area full of western boutique shops, modern apartment blocks and plastic surgery clinics.
Why so much surgery?
It’s impossible to know for sure why South Korea has such a high rate of plastic surgery. But some speculate that it’s to do with the very competitive jobs market. Since the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997, youth unemployment has never really recovered in South Korea.
Among the youth in this country, applying a hundred times for a job is not exceptional.
Kyungsoo Choi, Getting to Grips with South Korea’s Youth Unemployment Malaise – Kyungsoo Choi is Senior Fellow, Korea Development Institute
In the 2000s the government provided little social welfare and young graduates were pitted against each other for every job. In 2017 youth unemployment rate hit a record of 11.7%.
job applicants are judged on their appearance and most employers ask for a photo of the applicant and even their height and weight. Surgery to make yourself more attractive is seen as an advantage in the employment market.
93% of companies ask for a photo in their job applications.
67% deduct points to anyone that didn’t submit a photo.https://www.saramin.co.kr/zf_user/help/live/view?idx=30598&listType=news
K pop stars and TV idols also influence Koreans into getting plastic surgery. Many K-Pop groups are open about getting plastic surgery. Popular K-Pop group SixBomb even made two songs about everyone in the group getting plastic surgery; ‘Getting Pretty Before‘ and ‘Getting Prettier After‘. Casemaker Entertainment record company spent an estimated $93,000 on their plastic surgery. According to reports they had “Every kind of surgery that could be done on a face.”
It’s also a question of mentality. In South Korea beauty is seen as something that you can attain through hard work, a commodity that you can buy just like anything else.
The Dubious Enhancement: Making South Korea a Plastic Surgery Nation – So Yeon Leem
East Asian Science, Technology and Society: an International Journal
Flight attendants in South Korea reveal why plastic surgery is becoming the norm to get a job – Rachel Premack Updated Aug 12, 2019, Insider