Looks aren’t everything, but they can make a big difference — and not just in romance, but in your career as well. “Koreans are obsessed with how we look,” said 19-year-old Seoul Woori, who energized her job search with the help of a nose job and eyelid lift. “Before my surgery, if I had 10 job interviews, I wouldn’t get any calls back. But now, I get a lot of calls.”
That’s why many parents in South Korea consider plastic surgery a normal part of preparing their children for adulthood. It’s even become a typical high school graduation gift.
In no country is perfection more possible — and impossible to resist — than in South Korea. South Korea is known as the plastic surgery capital of the world, and 20 percent of Korean women (as well as many men) have had plastic surgery (although the United States boasts the most procedures per year, according to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery).
The most popular procedure is known as double eyelid surgery, or blepharoplasty, which is performed to eliminate the typical creaseless eyelid most Koreans are born with, creating a more Caucasian-looking eyelid and making the eye look bigger. Many Korean parents consider plastic surgery a normal part of preparing their children for adulthood, and this procedure has become a typical high school graduation gift. It costs between US $1,000 and US $3,000 in South Korea.
“Korea is a very competitive society and in the job market, a beautiful face is kind of a great weapon, because beautiful people are always chosen first,” said Dr. Man Koon Sun at the JW Plastic Surgery Clinic in Seoul.
The practice has become associated with “Gangnam Style” or K-Pop culture, which began with Korean pop music and has become a huge force in the country’s entertainment world and spread around the world. Part of the K-Pop look is an aesthetic that borrows from anime drawing style. Faces are wide-eyed and babyish, with a touch of Caucasian appearance within a contemporary Asian look. Teenagers absorb these new beauty standards through popular music videos.
In addition to double eyelid surgery, Koreans are also signing up for jaw-slimming surgery, or V-line surgery. This procedure creates a desirable, narrow jawline (as opposed to a more natural round face) by shaving the mandible using oscillating saws or by breaking and then realigning both jaws. Patients can take six months to recover from the painful procedure, which was initially developed to correct facial abnormalities.
“It’s a complex, risky procedure. You could have permanent numbness, and there have been cases where people have died from this operation,” said Dr. David A. Koslovsky, a maxillofacial surgeon at Columbia College of Dental Medicine.
Less invasive is aegyo sal (“eye smiles” or “cute skin”), in which fat is injected under the eyes to create a babyish appearance.
Despite the fact that these surgeries radically transform their appearance, celebrities have rarely discussed them — until now. The K-Pop group Six Bomb has released a music video