Why is Korea Obsessed with Beauty & Cosmetic Surgery?

Note: This is a guest post written by Joon Lee, a blogger from South Korea.

Despite not wanting to be sucked in by media – with its overtly ridiculous obsession and glorification of beautiful people – there is no point in denying it: beauty rules. Everywhere we look, we are constantly reminded of how much easier the world seems to be for people blessed with the right face, hair and body parts.

And although the standards of beauty have changed over time and transcends different cultures, the desire to look beautiful is certainly ingrained into the human race. Sometimes, you can’t help but wonder whether your own life would be just that much better if the reflection in the mirror looking back at you were a bit more beautiful.

Let us take a look at South Korea. Plastic surgery statistics show around 93% of all women in Seoul have undergone cosmetic enhancement of some sort.  The typical starting age is 16 – 17 years; and they usually start with double eyelid surgery.

Double eyelid surgery is the most popular cosmetic surgery in Korea. It is usually a day surgery whereby a nip will result in beautiful eyes with natural creases, resulting in bigger and rounder-looking eyes.

A Land Obsessed with Beauty and Cosmetic Surgery

Photo Credit: www.bryologue.wordpress.com

This country is no doubt a leading destination for cosmetic surgery. But why is Korea so obsessed with beauty and cosmetic surgery? Is it because of vanity? Is it due to the popularity of K-pop and K-drama; with everyone wanting to mimic the look of their favorite Korean superstar?

The answer simply boils down to this: competition. In Korean society, having eoljjang (the right face or best face) is deemed as a huge asset. In Seoul alone, there are 25 million unemployed inhabitants. Many therefore believe eoljjang will thrust the individual to greater heights in a fiercely competitive environment.

In Korea, having the right face makes a difference between success and failure. This is why plastic surgery in Korea is perceived as a worthwhile and logical investment in the body, rather than a sign of vanity.

At around this time of year, we see many young Koreans take on the necessary cosmetic procedures in readiness for life’s next transition step. It is their belief that the perfected look will help them gain entry into a prestigious school or university and to obtain the right job in a tough job market.

Travel to Korea for Cosmetic Surgery

The efforts funneled into promoting top-class cosmetic surgeons and techniques have given many individuals confidence to travel to South Korea for plastic surgery. Korean plastic surgeons are renowned for their skill and cutting edge techniques; with many specializing in procedures that are most suited to the Asian demographic group.

New medical intervention in plastic surgical procedures – such as minimal scarring and day surgeries – has also driven the popularity of cosmetic surgery. There are plenty of beauty clinics and hospitals in Korea. In Seoul alone, the district of Gangnam-gu is hailed as the beauty belt of Korea.

Opting for cosmetic procedure, no matter how subtle or radical needs thorough research. The point here is: there is a need to be attentive to all that’s involved with cosmetic surgery.

These are some of the more pertinent pointers that you may wish to consider: choosing the right doctor, electing the proper procedure and recognizing the ramifications that go deeper than the glossy before and after photos that make it all look so promising. And lastly, manage your expectations of cosmetic surgery.

About Agnes Embile Jimenez

Agnes likes to think that she's a full-time BUM. She's currently doing the things she loves while maintaining a frugal lifestyle. This blog is all about her struggles to live a frugal life, her quest to see the world via budget traveling, and her love to share to other people (via blogging) everything that she is passionate about. Agnes does not absolutely conform to any beliefs or philosophies. Though she's writing about frugal living and is currently embracing the minimalist lifestyle, she doesn't want to define her existence based on these realities alone. For her, life is too diverse, too colorful, too mysterious. It would be a waste of experience (and time) to imprison herself to a few sets of ideas. Google+ | Twitter

19 thoughts on “Why is Korea Obsessed with Beauty & Cosmetic Surgery?

  1. wow! i never even realized this. 93%?!!! thats insane! But I guess I do understand it, since I’ve had a few asian girlfriends and they always seem to complain about they’re eyes (i’m not sure why, since thats one of the things I love about asian women). but i guess since the procedure is so quick and easy, and probably somewhat cheap, women are just lining up for it over there. kind of like lip injections for the women in LA

    1. 93 percent is pure bullshit. Its like the rumors get wilder and wilder with time. First there was this survey which concluded that 20 percent of Seoul women have had some type of cosmetic enhancement but I’ve found no credible sources for this information.

  2. The korean comunnity is obsessed at the american culture.

    for this reason they run to change their hair style, beauty carachteristcs and everyting about their visual.

    An issue that appeared from the capitalism in asia!

  3. Now I understand it better. Could that be the reason why a lot of Koreans are in the Philippines? Because it’s cheaper and better compared to Korea? This is an interesting piece. I know that Koreans are competitive in everything but I never thought that appearance is also a big deal for them.

  4. Very strange – but the way of the world is – that people that have lifes basics – ie water, food, housing & a job – are never satisfied….while others don’t know how they will eat tommorow. Pure VANITY..

  5. I kind feel it is disgusting with all these plastic fantastic things. I was in korea 2 years ago and didn´t like what I saw, I mean yes I liked what I saw, but not what they ahve done to themself to achieve their beauty.

    North Korea are the tru Korea.
    Skorea should stop this shit, fantastic plast humans!

  6. In addition to competition, conformity also rules. What one person does the other does as well, in order to conform to society. The obsession of Korea to plastic surgery springs from a need to be accepted in any group, organization, company and the society. It seems beauty is equated to a good career, a perfect relationship, achievement and a bright future. Albeit a very illogical, and sometimes stupid, way of thinking, what can you do if society dictates you to be just that?

    It is true that they are also mesmerized by everything Western, just as Filipinos are, in some way, so they resort to “face reconstruction” to make themselves look like them—double eyelids, the perfect jawline, the blond hair, and perfect nose and even the “sliced tongue” to make them speak English better, but that’s another story.

    Being beautiful requires money, pain and difficulty, and Koreans would do everything to endure those. What can a little pain do if the prize is acceptance in society and a wonderful love life! I sometimes feel sorry for people who have this kind of mind set; but I am not someone to judge their way of thinking and their way of life. If they would feel better about themselves with a little surgery for their eyes and a little retouch of their nose, who am I to judge bitterly about their quest for happiness and recognition?

    Society judges people harshly most of the time; and so people react in many different ways—changing the appearance for instance. Although I still believe that to be accepted, you have to learn to accept yourself first; and in doing so, it takes more than plastic surgery, it takes the ability to change our minds and our ways for the better.

  7. Hi easy..i like what you have said..open mindedness. Didn’t know this kind of thing about koreans ’till this time, quite shock with the fact, but nothings change with the adoration i have with korean beauties..it is just that society can be really cruel, beautiful or not you will be judged by others the way you appear to them.

  8. Koreans are crazy, the idea of beauty they have is not real beauty.. mojority of koreans are ugly naturally so they have surgery to make themselves look better, which is ok in my opinion, we do live in a very judgemental world… but their idea of beauty is stupid… if it was upto them everyone would look the same, and the owlrd would be so boring… they have a thing about small heads, or small faces,, the smaller the face the more beautiful the person PML LOL small faces look ridiculous, so do enormous faces, but a balanced face that blends with your features is what is beautiful,,, not everyone should have the same features… lol really stupid… all their k pop stars are plastic, they have all had surgery, which makes them loose the unique artists, and everyone is squeeky clean chessy pop…. all the men look like little girls… its freaky.. they need to understand beauty is unique and its about being attractive with your features….. for example, jessica alba and jennifer aniston both have comepltely differnt features but both are beautiful… in korea…. jennifer aniston might get her jaw smaller like albas, and alba might get her eyes or forehead smaller like anistons… it is absolutely messed up lol…. the are beautiful with their own unique features that look good on their face…. it just happens so that most koreans are naturally ugly and unattractive, so they need it…. i guess….

    but the likes of Psy record label saying he needs plastic surgery or should wear a mask,, is horrific and shows how sick the korean industry is… ive heard the korean industry is a sick sick twisted place noone in the right mind would want to touch… girls are abused ect ect….. but back to Psy, he is not the typical justin bieber… but he is not ment to be,, he is Psy.. and in his own way he is incredibally cool and handsome… if you changed him to the korean standards he wouldnt even be Psy……. thats why koreans need to wake up from their crazy obssessed beauty surgery weird bullshit,,,, the guy Korean that was accepted in the west was a NATURAL guy being himself PSY… all the plastic k pop artist, the west wouldnt even bat an eye at, they are unoriginal.. and there is always someone out there more beautiful… its about talent and attraction….. dont think koreans understand that….

    like owen wilson, has a big crooked nose… but if you changed that, he wouldnt be owen wilson.. he would lose his appeal… that is part of his beauty and attractiveness…. Koreans got it all wrong… as for the really ugly koreans that look like zombies… i don’t see a problem trying to improve your life…. but it is the ones that think look a certain way is perfect,, when there is no such thing… everyones differences and uniqueness make them perfect..

  9. It’s sad that so many people are obsessed with beauty and willing to risk their lives by undergoing plastic surgery, but it seems like that is what society has come to, and if you want to keep up, you have to play the game. I’d like to think that I wouldn’t be so vain as to have cosmetic surgery, but if I have something that starts to bother me and make me feel like I look older than I could, I must admit that I would probably do what it takes to feel better about myself. I’m thankful for everything I have, but it’s easy to get caught up in the thought of getting what you want if it’s available!

  10. Andrea, the most common surgery in Korea is getting a double eye lid. It’s not life threatening and pretty safe, and cheap compared to other surgeries, which may explain why the procedure is popular. The surgeries done in Korea are not as extreme as in the States with the boob jobs which is a lot more invasive. I agree that it’s sad that people are so obsessed with looks. It’s a competitive society here and women do not have as many opportunity as men when it comes to career. The tradition of being a mother and wife has more status symbol in Korea than a career woman. So with that in mind, people are willing to bite the bullet and go through some pain to get more opportunity and hope for a better life. This isn’t uncommon. Other societies have done extreme or crazy things for the sake of beauty like when China did foot-binding. The pursuit of beauty is not unique to Korea. It seems extreme because of the word “surgery” and the negative images associated with it, but in the future, it will just be another fad perhaps.

  11. We all want to look pretty and sexy. Which is why women wear make-up, earrings, necklace and hair color. From there and then we strive to show up more skin, and when this case happens I only trust cosmetic surgery in Philippines where beautification becomes more detailed and improved.

  12. South Korea’s growing obsession with plastic surgery became apparent when pictures of a group of aspiring beauty queens posted online prompted claims that cosmetic procedures have left all the contestants looking the same.*..’*

  13. I personally have no problem at all with plastic surgery but i think Korea takes it to the extreme. Getting surgery when you’re only 16 is much too early. When you’re that young you can’t possibly make an educated decision about undergoing a procedure. Once you do it there’s no coming back and i think you have to at least be in your 20’s when you are a little older and wiser and can make better decisions.

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