Thursday, November 08, 2007

Korean Women -- Fixer-Uppers?

Dear Korean,

My father is an avid Korean drama/soap watcher. I've noticed that most of the young actors and actresses get nose jobs and double-eyelid surgery. What ever happened to keeping your unique Korean look -- the slanty eyes, flat nose, and rabbit cheeks? Did you guys lose pride in your physical characteristics? I understand the "Western"/Caucasian look has been a beauty standard for as long as they've influenced the world but still...
-- Viet Living in Korea Town (that's Garden Grove for you)

Dear Viet,

It's not just young actors and actresses -- it's everyone. The statistics about plastic surgery in Korea (particularly with respect to women) cannot be described by any other words than FUCKING ASTOUNDING. Consider the following:

- 76 percent (!) of Korean women in their 20s and 30s have undergone plastic surgery. Most of them were epicanthoplasty (i.e. the "double-eyelid surgery".) (So does this mean that 24 percent of Korean women are naturally hot? Something to think about.)

- 25 percent of Korean mothers who have daughters between the ages of 12 and 16 suggested plastic surgery to their daughters. (In the Korean's "Pantheon of Fucked-Up Statistics", this figure has to be the king -- or is it queen?-- slightly leading the figure that nearly 30 percent of South Africa is HIV-positive.)

- 27.4 percent of Korean college graduate job seekers (19 percent of men, 34.1 percent of women) thought they did not fare well in the interview because of their looks. 28.5 precent of job seekers have already undergone plastic surgery or have planned plastic surgery in order to perform better in the job market.

Personally, the Korean thinks the plastic surgery craze in Korea is a disgusting national disease. Nevertheless, the cause of this madness is fairly straightforward and understandable -- it's a blend of conformity, sexism, and a hyper-competitive society.

First, the ever-present Korean conformity. The Korean covered this topic long, long ago, back when it was only the Korean's friends sending in the questions for the blog. In the older post the Korean gave a quick-and-dirty answer, but this is really the true cause of the Korean conformist culture: that Korea went from pre-modern to post-modern, a process that took other countries about 150 years, in about 40 years.

Truth is, all pre-modern, agriculture-based socities are conformist. Such societies usually consist of tight-knit communities, whose members must all cooperate in order to earn a living. (Think of the Amish community for an American example.) Homogeneity is a natural outgrowth of such societies.

The Korean will say this point again and again until everyone understands this - ONLY 40 YEARS AGO, KOREA WAS POORER THAN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA. So although the miraculous economic growth took Korea to the forefront of modernity, Korea continues to drag its cultural baggage from the pre-modern, agricultural era.

Practically, this baggage-carrying resulting from compressed economic growth means that Korean people constantly care about what other people think about them. It doesn't help that Koreans tend to live very close to one another in massive cities, therefore never having a chance to get the hell away from everyone else.

So if a popular trend develops in Korea, Koreans follow that trend without thinking twice about it, because other people do it too. At times, this is a source of great national strength. When there is something that demands a truly national-scale cooperation, like the Olympics or the World Cup, there are no better people than Koreans to extract that cooperation. However, infuriatingly, a trend often makes many Koreans lemmings.

Unfortunately, the trend of beauty in Korea became this Westernized face, so people follow it without thinking twice about it. Once the beauty trend is established, every Korean starts demanding something that conforms that trend. What is an actor/actress to do? In order to become and stay popular, they all go through plastic surgery to conform the goddamn trend.

But this is not enough to explain the whole plastic surgery madness, especially regarding the general population. The second part of the trend is old school sexism. Simply put, Korean women get plastic surgery because they are being judged only on their looks. This is not all that different worldwide, so no further explanation would be necessary.

But what makes the sexism particularly devastating is that it operates within a hyper-competitive society. Right now, the unemployment rate among young Korean workers is around 12 percent -- and that's not counting those who are staying longer in colleges and graduate schools because the job market is too tough. And Korean resumes always have a place for you to affix your picture (something that is legally prohibited in the U.S.) Given that one's appearance is a large (often the only) factor in one's ability to find a job, what crazy person would not get plastic surgery?

Nonetheless, the Korean will maintain his stance - this plastic surgery craze, and the current standard of female beauty as a whole in Korea, are sickening. Eventually, Korea will get out of its conformist culture, and its standard of beauty will change accordingly. Until that day, enjoy the wonders of modern medical science, on display on AZN Network every night.
-EDIT 10/29/2009 6:43 p.m.- According to a survey by Chosun Ilbo, 90 percent of Korean women in their 20s and 30s said they would get plastic surgery to feel better about themselves.
Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. I think you have a great blog--I don't know where you find the time and patience to explain everything. I once read that the moment you understand something, you lose the desire to explain it--to explain is to distance yourself from it. Whether that's true or not for all people is a point of contention. For me, having lived in Korea for nine years, I think my desire to explain Korea to others truly disappeared, especially to my Korean-American friends. I find myself telling them, "You just have to live in Korea to understand." But I think you should keep up this blog. It has made me smile, laugh and nod in all the right places.

    More on point for this particular post, I don't think a little cosmetic surgery is a very bad thing. What bothers me more is that so many Korean girls will have a procedure done and then deny ever having done anything in the first place. Did you check out Miss Korea this past year, the one who placed fourth at Miss Universe? I thought she was hot, hot, hot and I am not even straight, straight, straight. To me, it was pretty clear that she had a nose job done, but in an interview she gave, she denied ever having had any work performed. But no actor or entertainer worth his or her weight in gold ever admits to having had plastic surgery, so I can't really blame Miss Korea for what she said.

    Is true beauty inner beauty? How nice. How cliche. How false. How naive. Take your pick. I doubt that there's a correct answer to this very tricky question that has spawned multiple choices.

  2. I will never, ever understand young people getting cosmetic surgery, especially kids in their teens. Well, okay, I do understand why people do it, the peer pressure and the desire to fix things they don't like about themselves or things they think others don't like. But I can't imagine that it's healthy psychologically or physically. And those stats you cited are shocking.

    Then you have movies like 200 Pounds Beauty which essentially reinforce the idea that doors open to you if you get cosmetic surgery (at least I think that's what it's saying, although I haven't seen it yet). Sounds like irresponsible filmmaking to me.

  3. Let's not start a flamewar on who's at fault for all the things we don't like in this world on this comment board.

  4. I was in Korea last year and I saw a lot of hot girls in the streets of Seoul and Pusan. I live near Koreatown L.A. and I was wondering why there were not as many hot girls there. Could be the plastic surgery, but my guts says that girls in Korea walk A LOT more so they just stay thinner and healthy looking.

    Lots of Korean girls get the eye lid surgery and in my opinion, it doesn't help them. Their looks go up, maybe 5% overall. The funniest is when fat girls do it. They could of just dieted and worked out and saved themselves a couple of grand. Wait... eye lid surgery is cheaper then lipo, huh? Nevermind.

  5. This is so true .

    I'm a Filipina. and I am able to deal with these Koreans since I do private tutorials .

    I was able to get hold of their culture and on how they perceive things .

    Koreans, for a fact has such a large percentage that believes good looks equate greater opportunities.

    Korean commonly tend to have double eyelid surgery, that painful 'jaw reduction' and nose job.

  6. Lets not forget CNN, Tyra Banks Show and all those youtube video clips. Asian women's main motivation for plastic surgery is to look more like all those beautiful caucasian women in the movies.

    Complete with blue contact lenes and dyed hair.

  7. Hello,
    Do you happen to remember where the statistics you cite (about plastic surgery rates and mothers pressuring daughters) came from? You got quoted in the South Korea article in Wikipedia (under Culture and Entertainment), and it would be helpful to have more original sources.


  8. ginny,

    that's a problem because I can't locate them anymore. Originally, the numbers were from various news article on an online newspaper that I read daily. However, at some point the newspaper changed something about its search function, and I can't find them anymore. As far as I can remember, the crazy one (76%) came from either Vogue or Elle Korea.

  9. Hello : )
    I'm a korean girl going to a korean school.
    and for my assignment I have to research and write about the plastic surgery boom in korea.
    Umm : ) Just wanted to say thank you for the post! I liked your post- and its going to be a help for me : D!
    Hahahah Although I do doubt that the statistics are true xDDD that half the women population have undergoed plastic surgery. but i do agree that the plastic surgery subject is taken way too freely here. Sadly our society is this way :( and it often hurts me that everytime I meet someone new, they ask me if I had plastic surgery- saying that even 10 year old gets plastic surgery if theyre korean. (which is absolutely false lol)

    Oh and to the commenter above
    Plastic surgery is not allowed for teens... >_>;
    at least. in the schools in korea.
    but ive heard of korean-american girls doing plastic surgery and its allowed in the states.
    but in korea, its not allowed :)

  10. I am an ESL teacher in Korea. I live about 4 hours south of Seoul. I teach middle and high school kids. The middle school girls asked me if I had ever had plastic surgery. This surprised me. Then the college intern I was working with told me if I wanted plastic surgery I should go to Mokpo because there was a really good surgeon there. Plastic surgery is the number one winter break activity for middle and high school girls in Korea, according to the Korea Times. Eyelid surgery is frequently performed on middle school girls. I have seen it. Also boob jobs are big. No pun intended, but yeah, looks are really important and having that double eyelid is key. I don't know about mother's recommending surgery to their daughters, but I wouldn't doubt it. Whatever it takes to get ahead.

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  12. Hi Korean! Excellent unbiased blog you run here. Forgive me for my abrasiveness, but you appear to give the impression that you are ethnic Korean, when you a clearly not, which does mislead people about the perspective you're coming from.

    On the topic, I would just like to elaborate that although I agree that plastic surgery is prevailent in South Korea, I would like to distinguish the fact that getting double eye-lid surgery should not be considered full-blown surgery.

    Considering that many double-eyelid procedures can be done by simply making strategic pinches in the eye without incision, demonstrates how minor this surgery can be. Furthermore, in most cases, simple eyelid surgery will not turn unattrative people into attractive ones. Those who are attractive simply enhance their existing attractiveness by reducing the slant of their eyes. I would say that double-eyelid surgery is as minor as permanent make-up.

    Personally, I believe that if you were to remove the double eyelid procedure from the overall plastic surgery statistics, you would get a lower rate of plastic surgery than that in the US or other Asian nations.

    Just wanted to clear that up.

  13. I was wondering if Koreans really do undergo a knife operation to enhance their looks based on the movies and series. "200 Pounds Beauty" would be an exaggeration, but based on the answer you provided, I think I can conclude that it is so. No wonder Korean actress looks so different with regard to look and stance, compared to the common Korean women living in the Philippines.

    Western culture have large impact based on looks, as Western civilization was so amazed with the beauty of a real Asian. I guess both envy and get awed to something that we normally do not have or possessed.

    Thanks for your post.

  14. SK chicks get plastic surgery cuz they stupid yo!

  15. this is an interesting blog. i mean, all of it. well, the ones i read. it explains lots of things that confuse me.

    i had this argument with my mother once, about koreans and their constant copying and following trends. my dad tried to explain it to me, but i didnt understand but now i kinda do.

    im korean, and it makes me really angry, all these korean girls and their goddammned plastic surgery. for some reason i was born with "double eyelids" and pale skin and all my life other koreans would gush all over me and be like "you look eurasian," "is your dad white" etc. i guess it gave me a bix of a complex, made me feel like being korean-looking wasnt good enough, that the more white i looked, the more eurasian, the more people would like me. which is fucked up. it makes me really angry you know what i mean? i personally find slanted eyes extremely attractive in a very unique way, and alot of asians have really nice big lips, and i think thats real nice and it makes me angry that all these poor little easily-influenced girls feel like theyre not good enough because their eyes arent big enough, their skins too dark, etc etc.

    those so called korean soap stars have a fucking social responsibility. stop making these poor girls undergo the emotional and physical trauma that comes with plastic surgery. you know what though? i have a typical korean nose, the small round nose, and i wear it with pride. i refuse to change anything about myself, physically. unless im being unhealthy. like i really need to quit smoking cancer sticks. engh. but i will never ever have plastic surgery. i hate it because alot of people assume i have had plastic surgery. once i even asked my mum if she had given me plastic surgery when i was a baby because i was so worried cos everyone kept asking me. hahaha.

    i want someone in korea to speak up about these problems. cos im going there at the end of this year and im really scared. im not fat but im not skinny skinny either and . well, i dont wanna end up killing someone cos of their fakeness and conformity.

    anyway, thats all. have a nice day, etc etc.

    ps. dont worry, i would never kill ANYONE.

  16. wow this is really interesting...
    I'm cacausian, living in canada. I've been asked by my korean friends whether or not i've had surgery (which i have not), and they often make comments about how much they want the eye shape and color, blonde hair, etc. Some of my asian friends really seem to feel so terrible about the way they look - constantly applying eyemakeup to make their eyes appear larger, using skin creams to lighten their skin, and wishing for lighter hair color
    I really think this is awful... because frankly, the whole time they are praising my 'westerner' looks, i am wishing that i could look more like them. I would love to have the black hair and dark, mysterious eyes of my asian friends. They are so beautiful!

    i'm currently dating a korean man though, and worry about his parents' opinions...i don't have a low self-esteem.. i have always loved myself the way i maybe I wish i could look asian, so his parents won't be worrying so much about what our offspring will look like..
    anyways... another thing about korean the weight :(
    I'm 5'2", and average weight... but my korean friends all say how skinny the women are there, and the bf expects me to wear a bikini at the beach... i'm totally ok with a bikini here, where the girls actually have some meat on their bones... but im really scared about being criticized when i go there. i haven't met my bf's family yet, but his sister saw a pic of me and said i was fat. canadians say i'm skinny! ...well, like h.k. - not fat, but not skinnyskinny either =) I don't get it...
    when his friends hear that he's dating a 'westerner' they all expect a moviestar :( they say i look like Emma Watson, which is nice and flattering, but it really bothers me that they can't just see me as a normal time, i was talking to my bf with the webcam while he was at his university, and his friend walked by and accused him of watching porn! he said because im a westerner. I was really insulted. I dress very conservatively, and wear minimal makeup. I am just a normal girl, and i really with they could understand that not all westerners look or act like movie stars. i know there are "normal" girls in korea, but it just seems to me that they expect so much from me just because i'm from north america.
    ummm...sorry, that kinda became a rant....too long, and kinda......well, ya... sorryyy!!! :)

  17. Amen, I agree with everything the Korean said, I called it the national obsession but I think he says it better calling it a “disgusting national disease.” I would like to add one word – disgraceful. I think that Koreans are smart and creative in general, but when it comes to this one topic, plastic surgery, I think they are beyond retarded. All these Korean women who had the surgery are so well practiced at lying that they will look you straight in the face without blinking a surgically scarred eye, and tell you that it is all natural. I got so tired of these women lying to me that I started to say that I don’t believe them unless they show me proof with a picture of themselves at age five or seven. Try it and see what happens. There is no better way to shout out to the world that you hate your race than surgically changing your eyes and nose. Imagine if millions of non-Asian people were going to plastic surgeons to erase their double eyelids. I read somewhere a Korean woman saying she is ashamed of her race because of the plastic surgery madness. I can fully understand. I think it is quite accurate that only about 24 percent of Korean women are really hot and the rest are so-so, but that goes for all races not just Asians.

  18. I'm a new reader and enjoying this very informative blog. Being a caucasian in Toronto, Canada who has semi recently gotten into "visually charged" K-Pop scene, music videos with Popular Song type of shows to be exact, I couldn't help wondering "Where do Korean media moguls "find" such unrealistic, almost blinding beauty?" Don't mean to be offensive but central Canada has quite visible Korean population, I've known my share at various stages of their life and bottom line is: close to zero resemblance with anybody on screen. It's fair comparising as Western media versus reality: take average actor without makeup, fitting brand name clothing-you'll get every third "Joe" downtown Toronto. On the other hand, it feels like manga ideas were taken too seriousely in Seoul: extremely young "project members" with wide open eyes, tiny nose, full lips, white skin. Wait, gets even further with time: now girls are having tiny faces, waist but "juicy butt" and unbelivable cleavage. Guys are with six-pack abs and jaw dropping 170cm in height. Very doubtful nature of those transformations seems to be well explained as "every body part that could be done was done". Sounds desperate, even pathetic.Then my concerns are: "Why/how such money grabbing industry is easily supported by general public?" They must be having "money to burn" as it won't help much. Conservative country seems to find "special" ways to get people into pricey, dangerous things.Here it's just "little" crap that adds up (smoking, drinking, phone bills).
    Anyhow, sorry for anything incorrect at five in the morning. Great read (comments included).

  19. Love reading your blog Korean.
    I'm currently living in Daegu (have been for six years now) and have seen amazing amounts of plastic surgery done. Asked my Korean girl friends about it and they said the double eyelid surgery is very cheap and that almost every Korean girl gets it at some point.

    And yes the emphasis on appearances is at the root of this problem, its also at the root of their credit issues also. Everyone here wants to look the best and be beautiful that it kinda gets overwhelming after awhile. Then you become numb to it and it doesn't really matter much.

    Personally I'm not for nor against plastic surgery. Couldn't care less either way. If a women wants to change something whatever, but I think its gotten too bad over here and needs to hard core slow down.

  20. - Let's stop perpetuating the erroneous myth that Korean women get eye-lid surgery to look more Caucasian. It's fiction. It's untrue. And this myth inflates the egos of westerners who want to believe that Asians will go to any lengths to emulate them. The double eye-lid is an indigenous trait among Koreans that those without wish to obtain. Light skin, likewise, is also an indigenous trait, that those with less than the fairest skin, also wish to have. Height, intelligence, wealth, status ... can also be included among the qualities desired by Koreans before the advent of the white man; and even absent the white man, would continue to persist as desirable objectives.

    - In regards to conformity/homogeneity, while your point about pre-modern agriculture-based societies have merit, it doesn't explain everything. In fact, I suspect it explains less than even half. Japan, for instance, has been an "advanced" nation for some time now and it still remains among the most conformist, homogenized societies ... arguably even more so than Korea! I think the "conformity" that informs Korea can be better explained by its underlying culture/religion/philosophy. For example, E. Asia's Confucian-based system of morality is not guided by a "holy book" or sacrosanct law, as is characteristically in the west. Rather, it is a system that is fluid, malleable, contingent and utilitarian and enforced societally through peer pressure. Morality in the west is something more or less between man and God. In E. Asia, in contrast, morality is an issue between man and society. Consequently, one can see that for the average person, conformity is the easiest way to make sure one remains in good stead with societal mores.

    1. -Okay- I hope that this is not a repost as I had finished and pressed enter and then it seemed that my reply just disappeared.

      I know that this is long overdue as you've posted years before, but I found that this was an appropriate place to talk about it. As an Asian-American I feel like Western culture is very dominant, as far as the modern history that I've become familiar with seems to tell me. Living in South Korea now, it has been really something I wanted to demystify as to why these certain looks they want to achieve is such a big deal.

      After reading into all these things, I think it's a mixture of both U.S./Western influence and old-world perspectives of beauty that leads to these PS surgeries. Hair dyeing/bleaching, color lenses, the "Barbie" nose (as dubbed by the surgeons), and the heavier eye work for the "deeper, rounder" look are definitely not indigenous to this part of the world. But is that to say that everyone here is doing PS for that look specifically? I wouldn't say so.

      In general we do want the opposite of what we have, and so it's kind of like we all want the same look. Plus with globalization and the developing technological advances, I think everyone in the world's going to reach a common ground as to achieving that 'look'.

  21. Hi there,

    I am a mix of asian and white and I was born with a double eyelid on one side and mono eyelid on the other. I am very self conscious about it and would like to get it fixed so they match. Do you know of a well known plastic surgeon, preferably a Korean doctor, in Southern California? Thanks!

  22. My own mother underwent double eyelid surgery because she claimed her lashes impaired her vision. Um, no. Even though she got the procedure done years ago, I knew her answer was full of crap. She got surgery because she wanted to look better, not because her non-existent lashes were poking her eyes.

  23. I'm an ethnic Korean and I feel that though this procedure may be common, not every Korean with big eyes/double eye lids went through surgery. My father's side has strong noses and big eyes without a defined crease. My mother's side has the crease, but in her case her eyes are smaller, and a more "typical" flatter nose. In both cases it is natural through their family's genetics. Full Korean.

    Now what if this surgery wasn't around? There are other ways (glue, tape, contacts) that people can get this without it being permanent. Does it make it more okay? Would there be such a concern about this? I guess it wouldn't be anymore serious than hair dye or a push up bra.

    It's ashame that the world is influenced greatly by western Europe and the US. However, even the caucasians will want artificial looks to resemble what is said to be beautiful.

  24. Nothing to say except that I think The Korean is dead-on correct. Being someone who likes to understand things in a simple way, I struggled for awhile trying to come up with a broad characterization of Korean society. Then it hit me: Koreans are like bratty teenagers. Once I started treating them like snotty 12 year olds, they started to respond well to me. Note, I am a Korean-American, who immigrated to the US with my parents back in 1980.

  25. OMG, I found your site through Dramabeans and I'm so happy she shared the link to this amazing blog.

  26. To: THE KOREAN

    You keep making some mistakes typical of a Korean ESL learner (esp., dropping articles).

    I think it is interesting that you poke fun at others who make grammatical errors on this site.

    Referring to yourself in the 3rd person is funny, for a paragraph, but doing it over and over and over and overkill.....
    u know.

  27. It's pretty sad when I realized only several weeks that many Koreans, in fact, have had plastic surgery. I've been keeping up with some Korean music, and I find many of the female singers attractive, which makes me think: "Which of these artists have undergone surgery?"

    So, which artists have not gotten surgery? And which ones certainly have?

    Also, I find Koreans generally attractive. Koreans in my area are scarce, and the ones that I occasionally see are very pretty. They're around my age (late teens), so I highly doubt they've gotten it. Basically, I just want to say that I feel that Koreans are fine as they are.

  28. This is a really funny blog - congrats!
    Just to add to discussion about plastic surgery and obsession with appearance. (You will probably hate this but since all I know about popular culture is via K - dramas...)
    Very often in the dialogue, one character implies another character is really great because he/ she is good looking - realistic portrayal of Korean thinking or dramatic license?

  29. I'm in the 10% in my 20's who wouldn't get plastic surgery because I am scared of the pain (and because my dad told me he would kill me if I did). My parents' views have since then changed as they watch more Korean dramas.............. but I am still scared of any pain that I have to pay for.... so will stay away.

    I think the fact that I don't live in Korea also helps. :)

  30. Koreans DO NOT go through plastic surgery to look like Westerners. This cannot be reiterated enough. It's ridiculous.

    For example, Koreans love having big eyes, but definitely NOT as big as some Westerners. Also, you need to realize that Westerners have eyes exactly the same size as Asians. In fact, I've seen numerous Westerners with smaller eyes than Asians. The illusion of bigger eyes in Westerners is caused by numerous factors, including heavier eyelashes, deep-set eyes, and a nose-bridge (yes, a nose-bridge, which is rare in most Asians). Also, Koreans definitely do NOT want a Western nose. No offense, but a common nickname for Westerners in Korea is "the big-nosed people"... so please, do not flatter yourselves.

    Another thing: just because many Asians, including Koreans, wish to attain character traits that are considered more "Western" (such as big eyes and a more shapely nose) does not mean that they want to be/look Western. FOR EXAMPLE: You would never say that Westerners want to look East Asian, would you? But how come recent trends in the US and Europe are straight hair (most definitely an Asian trait), a smaller "button" nose (also Asian), skinniness (Asians are on average thinner than Westerners), tan skin (yes, there are a number of Asian ethnicities that have naturally tan skin - a "golden glow", if you will), and prominent cheekbones (Koreans, Mongolians, and certain Northern Chinese ethnicities are strongly identified with this trait).

    Oh, the irony.

    "Westerners want to look more Asian". Unless you can say this isn't true, please stop flattering yourselves by saying that Asians and Koreans are trying to look more Western. Thank you.

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  32. Where is the edit button???? garrr

    Hello Korean!
    I've been reading a bunch of your posts instead of researching for my term papers and I'm hooked.
    I've been planning to become an exchange student in Seoul because I'm not satisfied with the knowledge I have so far...but it seems like your blog is definitely a good primer! This is a little sad, because I am Korean myself.
    In any case! On the above post, I've definitely been impacted by the subject. I believe all those wacky statistics! I have a really pretty cousin and her mom pesters her about getting a nose job all the time.
    I've also noticed that in Korean, the word most often used for having gotten plastic surgery is "go-chut-suh," as in, "I got my nose/eyes/jaws fixed." In English, however, we use phrases and words such as "went under the knife," or "plastic" or "human barbie," which sound much less naturalized and comfortable.

  33. I wish we all appreciated and valued the differences in our appearances. We are brainwashed to think that Hollywood is beautiful. My sister's little girl has such blonde hair that it's almost white and while at the neighborhood swimming pool one day she overheard some woman telling another woman that it was disgusting how "blonde" my sister's little girl's hair was. As if she could do anything about it?!! What is wrong with people! My other niece who is older (and who is blonde) has dyed her hair dark. I think people always want something they don't have. Have you all read the very sad case of the korean woman who injected her face with cooking oil? I think she's Korean American. Anyway, she was a beautiful woman, but addicted to plastic surgery. Just google, "woman who injected her face with cooking oil" and you will see her now. I feel so so sorry for her. I hope she has loving, supportive family and friends

  34. Don't change what God gave you. The Chinese culture really frown on plastic/cosmetic surgery. Even though they may not be pretty, they'd never do it. Just stick to what you are born with and live with it because you are unique.

    No wonder I get confuse with Korean actresses and even some actors, they look similar, pretty much the same. Whereas for the comedians, they really look ugly.

  35. Well, the problem with the double eyelid surgery is that it had better be perfect. Nothing gives me more of a chill up the spine than looking at a korean woman with botched double eyelid surgery. I met a few korean women with low quality double eyelid surgery, and while it looks ok from distance, close up it is extremely disturbing to look at. It looks extremely unnatural, more aking to ugly scar than beauty enhancement.

  36. Hi Korea,
    I have a question. If I really want to go to Korea for plastic surgery (and I don't know how to speak Korean), how to I find good a surgeon?
    Sorry if he question is out of the scoop...
    Thank you so much!!

  37. I am a Korean guy of late 30s. I do not thinks plastic surgery is none of guy's buisness. In a positive way of thinking, it represents women's right to choose their faces.

  38. I'm full Korean with a strong nose and double eyelids. I can't begin to tell you how many random Asian people on the streets asked me how much I've "paid" for them. Top that with the fact that I'm 5'8. I have Asians asking me all the frigging time if I've ever gotten a surgery on my bones to become taller (I'm not even sure if such procedure exists). Not all Koreans have the "squinty eyes, flat nose, rabbit cheeks" kind of look. Just because a Korean girl has big eyes with creased eyelids, that doesn't automatically mean that she has gone under the knife. And the fact that some of you non-Korean Asians here imply that you naturally look better than us is just downright disgusting. We don't all look the same, get over it.

  39. Sexism may have been a valid accusation a few decades ago, but not anymore. There is pressure for males to look good in the modern media and there are procdures avaliable for males too.

  40. In response to Brutus' comment:

    I disagree with your analysis that morality in the West is between"man and God." Who do you think transmits God's messages in the West...? It is the institution of the Church, not God. It is man... man creates, changes, and molds those morality messages and then propagates them through religion.
    So, in both East and West it is social pressure that enforces the said morality of any religion/social philosophy. Just because Confucianism doesn't mention a god... all of sudden it is not recognized as an equal societal philosophy compared to religions (Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, etc). To debate the difference between Confucianism as a religion or philosophy gets into semantics too much for my blood. Both are used as a guiding influence of people's societal behavior. I would almost classify Confucianism as a religion because like many other religions there is conflict with other religions within a society. Korea had the same thing happen during the Choson Dynasty when Buddhism was in conflict with Confucianism. So, what happened?...Buddhism was banned in the cities and many temples, texts, relics were destroyed by order of the King. Temples were relocated to hills and monks went into hiding for a while.

  41. so does this mean that koreans are naturally ugly and they think they need to be pretiier/hotter?

  42. I used to work in Korea and I stayed in Kangnam. All the Kangnamyoja I saw were ultrawhite, skinny and fairly tall. Some of them had pretty big boobs, too LOL I didn't know what to expect, and I was surprised.

    I guess looks were a priority, but I figure it's like that in someplace like Los Angeles? Most of the girls dieted in a very hardcore way, but I did notice that married women seemed to have more "womanly curves." LOL Korean girls try really hard it seems to get married by a certain age, and they have to attract a guy, I guess.

    To me the fashion was really girly. High heels, skirts...ruffles. I had to alter my normal style a little to try to fit in. I saw girls in a lot of mini skirts and form-fitting skirts. I don't think that's conservative.

    Girls also whitened their skin big-time. But tons of African and Caribbean girls do the same thing, so I can't point a finger. I did notice almost all girls had pimples or a little rash on their cheeks. Someone told me it was a side-effect of the whitening cream.

    One of my coworkers told me that girls have clubs to save money to get dbl eyelid surgery. I would say almost all girls got the surgery. That sucks for the girls who have natural double eyelids. It would p*ss me off if someone asked me if I had surgery like one of the other girls commented.

    Anyway to me they all looked beautiful. Ppl did keep telling me how pretty I was although I have very black skin. That was strange.

    Anyway, I wanted to comment about guys. Some of the guys seemed more concerned about their appearance, too. One of our guys had naturally nappy (not curly, nappy) hair, and he relaxed it. LOL I had some classes many years ago with a Japanese guy who also had nappy hair. I thought he was mixed, but he told me some Japanese people ppl have naturally kinky hair. oO He wore his hair in braids.

    One of the really HOT guys didn't like his square chin. I doubt he got surgery, though. He was doing "dating" or whatever it is you do to find a marriage partner. He also obviously had a good job and a smoking hot bod, so I doubt his wife cared about his chin.

    But yeah, Koreans are like a lot of other cultures, I guess. Weird complexes: small eyes, big heads, square jaw, tanned skin, short legs, small mouth, thick ankles LOL Nobody else really would care as much.

  43. After the Korean War, (though not officially over) by far the strongest influence on the economic and social development of South Korea came from the U.S. An extremely conformist society was taken over by a de facto extremely individualistic society. Add to that the power and influence of media, and you have a country that wanted to (as quickly as possible) catch up to the U.S.A. in terms of material wealth and prosperity. Individualism+narcissism+consumerism culture spread rapidly in Korea, aiding the miraculous economic growth. When the first Korean women decided to go under the knife, it was for status, to differentiate herself from the rest of society, to display material wealth, etc. But the individuality clashes w/ the conformity in Korea, and now, the surgeries are done to fit in. So women have to constantly find new ways of differentiating themselves - for economic/career reasons, for positioning themselves to find the richest most desirable mate. Once all the body parts have become surgically enhanced for all Korean women, maybe men will rank potential mates according to education and/or profession. Considering how the economy is leaving lots of men in desperate situations, men will overlook physical traits and look for women w/ other assets. Korea is a cesspool of paradox, and it seems to jump in and out of individuality and conformity faster than most other industrialized countries. The fact that it is a small, homogeneous, and densely populated country should also be considered.

  44. Insightful and to-the-point. I already love your blog.

  45. I just want to say that whenever I go back to Seoul (cuz that's where my mom lives) for summer, I get tired of people asking me if I'm a foreigner or if I underwent surgery even though I'm 100% Korean and 100% natural. If makes me a little sad every time someone asks me about my double-eye lid eyes and rather high nose because I feel like I'm being called a cheater even though I'm not. And my mom's family all have double-eye lids. I'm worried that when I go on a date with a Korean guy, or any guy, he might think I had plastic surgery and judge me even though I haven't.

  46. I am a Korean male myself and I came across this post and I have to say, this has illuminated aspects of Korea that I can never really put into words. I live in America and personally I could care less if someone I knew did undergo plastic surgery. If it has become a pathway to success or even just a simple medium to better one's career, who is an outsider like me, or even more so a foreigner to judge them? Do they really understand the nature of how Korean society works? With my parents being first generation, I can already start to feel the hyper-competitive nature of Korean society seeping onto me. This competitive society demands perfection and puts a huge, HUGE burden on any kid growing up in that type of environment, a type of burden that I only got a taste of.

    One can judge Korea and say this competitive society with its need for perfection throughout the media and its demands for such superficiality is truly an affliction or like a "disease". However, after living in America, I realized that from what I understand American society has so many more, deeper issues and problems that make such issues of superficiality trivial. Furthermore, since Koreans are conformists while Westerners are supposed to be more independent-minded, shouldn't Westerners be more understanding of those who make the decisions to undergo plastic surgery? Though it is commonplace, each individual still made their own individual choice to undergo surgery.

  47. For me as a non-Korean asian, Koreans are the most attractive in Asia. They dont need surgery to become beautiful cause they already are.

  48. 99% of korean celebrities had plastic surgery. Koreans celebrities of yesterday did get plastic surgery too, but they didn't over do it like today. Many korean female celebrities have the same faces due to korean plastic surgeons run out of ideas. The typical faces of plastic surgery korean women are like Park min young's face, Park si Yeon, Goh or go arah, Harisu, and too many to list here. Koreans just don't naturally look like those korean celebrities of today. It is too obvious since South Koreans watched too much Bay Watch (american tv series) , then korean women all want to not look ethnic korean and change their faces. The general population of south korea is very plastic too. The latest statistics is 9 out of 10 korean women 35 and under had plastic surgery. Kids 10 and under had double eyelid surgery.

  49. Eyes can change all the way someone looks like. Even if it is difficult to think in their way, i can not imagine st like that in my country. In certain regions of my country people really have big and characteristic noses, but they do not have surgery even girls.
    Probably it is because of religion, because in my religion you can not change your body (i.e plastic surgery) unless it causes health problems. Anyways, it it is really strange for many countries...

    ps: I knew that i would pick the plastic and reconstructive surgery instead of radiology (just joking, i think it is not a doctor's job trying to change one's appearance if it is not a health problem. And i do not think desperately wanting to change appearance (to become more beautiful or attractive, doesn't matter) is not a health problem.

  50. 75% of Koreans can afford over $3000 to change their eyes, $5000-8,000 to change their nose shape, over $20,000- 30,000 to change their jaw... No way!

    In Korea, minimum wages are about 4-5 dollars per hour. Korean who have done post secondary education even have hard time getting jobs in Korea. So, it's impossible for 75% of Korean can afford expensive money just to change their appearance.

    I would say about 20% of 20s-30s of S.Korean female would done and less than 5% of Korean men do. Korean men hate women who have done plastic surgeries and in Korean, men who have mono-eyelid eye are more popular, just like "RAIN" or "G-dragon".

    Some foreigners think that it is cheap to do plastic surgery in Korea since a lot of foreigners such as "China" "Taiwan" "Vietnam" or "Japan" come to Korea to do plastic surgery. But it's very expensive but has good reputation over the world so they come to S. Korea to do.

    In addition, Korean women are just same as other countries' women... Who want to go under the knife?

    In Korea, anti-plastic surgery wave start to growing up because of side effects of plastic surgeries and artificial looking after plastic surgeries.

    Okay you say about Korean actor/actress.. But look at Chinese, Japanese, even Hollywood stars. They also have done plastic surgeries. It's not just Korea, men!

  51. Hi,

    I just wanted to say that the basic premise of this post is completely wrong. That is, that many Korean people, especially women, have undergone plastic surgery.

    According to the the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the USA, Brazil, China, Japan and India are, in this order, the countries in which more plastic surgery procedures are conducted. Note that I refer to number of platic surgery procedures being conducted, not number of nationals from a particular country undergoing plastic surgery. This is because, according to the ISAPS, there are certain countries that are popular among foreigners to go to undergo plastic surgery in significant numbers. The most popular countries for foreigners are, in some order, Korea, Brazil, Argentina and Colombia. That means that Koreans not only undergo less plastic surgery than other Asian people, but also that the number of procedures conducted in Korea is skewed upwards due to it being popular with other Asians. By the way, this is also why it seems that European people undergo less plastic surgery than people from other places - many of them go to South America for their surgery.

    Personally I think that this post is increadibly misleading and should, at the very least, be modified to reflect the fact that Koreans actually do not undergo a significantly high amount of plastic surgery procedures. Indeed, controlling for the income level of the country, plastic surgery in Korea is actually less common than in most other developed countries.

    The ISAPS has documented well why there is this perception that aesthetic plastic surgery is more common in Asia and Latin America than in other places. Firstly, because plastic surgery is more openly discussed in these regions than in Europe and the USA. Secondly, because figures in Europe and the USA are skewed downwards by masking many aesthetic plastic surgery operations as medical ones (e.g., many nose jobs being labelled as medical when in fact they are aesthetic). And finally, because there is this misconception that women from Asia and Latin America want to look more Caucasian, of which there is no real proof - some of them want, but most, simply, do not.

    In short, Korean people actully undergo less plastic surgery than they "should" if we take into account their income levels. Which explains why the basic premise of this post is wrong.

    1. To John Malcolm.

      I can't believe you wrote such a long answer but didn't notice the numbers you quoted from the ISAPS refer to total number of plastic surgeries, not percentage of the population. Considering India's population is 1.2 billion and China's population is 1.35 billion of course more plastic surgeries take place in those countries. South Korea's population is only 50 million or 1/30th of India's population. Even if the majority of the population is dirt poor in China and India, more people will have had plastic surgery than South Korea.

      So when you say something like "Personally I think that this post is increadibly misleading and should, at the very least, be modified to reflect the fact that Koreans actually do not undergo a significantly high amount of plastic surgery procedures. Indeed, controlling for the income level of the country, plastic surgery in Korea is actually less common than in most other developed countries."

      That would make you either the most ignorant, or hypocritical, or deceptive person on this comments board. Take a pick....

  52. John,

    Nice research.

    But, it's hard to dismiss the Korean obsession with plastic surgery when middle school girls receive plastic surgery as a graduation present.

    I guess you'd have to live here to believe it.

    I've seen 6th graders with plastic surgery (mostly surgeries to make their eyes appear bigger).

    Of course a nation of a billion plus people (China), has more plastic surgeries, but based on population, the percentage of Koreans going under the knife makes Korea #1.

    And Korea is definitely first in the number of children having plastic surgery.

  53. Teacher-ing in Korea,

    Thankfully I didn't have to do much research, since I work in the plastic surgery business and I check figures regularly for professional reasons and out of interest.

    In terms of percentage of people undergoing aesthetic plastic surgery per capita, the top two countries are in Europe - they are Greece and Italy. Then you have three countries in the Americas - Brazil, Colombia and the USA.

    As I said before, the figures for Korea and some Latin American countries, including Brazil and Colombia themselves by the way, are skewed upwards because of the number of foreigners undergoing surgery there. But if you study the figures collected by ISAPS in detail, you can see that the percentage of Chinese, Japanese and Southeast Asian people undergoing aesthetic plastic surgery in Korea is staggering. Something similar happens in Argentina with the number of Western European people travelling there to have plastic surgery by the way. So this is not a prerogative of Korea, it happens elsewhere.

    In terms of underage people undergoing plastic surgery, the top ten countries are all in the Americas. There is not even a discussion about this in the plastic surgery profession, it is quite well known. I don't know on what basis you claim that "Korea is definitely first in the number of children having plastic surgery" because no Asian country is even in the top ten on this list. The phenomenon of middle school graduates receiving plastic surgery as a graduation present is worldwide, not a Korean or Asian prerogative. It started in Latin America, then moved to the USA, then to Western Europe, and then to the Middle East and Asia. So Asia, including Korea, was actually one of the last regions to catch on it. There are dozens of papers documenting this phenomenon if anyone wants to do his/her own research.

    By the way, of course figures are not always completely accurate. Actually, the figures in many Western countries are skewed downwards because many aesthetic plastic surgeries are reported as "medical", which does not happen in Asia or the USA. But let me assure you that Korea is "definitely" not first in number of children having plastic surgery.

    We could have endless discussions about Korea's or Asia’s apparent "obsession" with plastic surgery. But the fact that people talk more openly about it in Korea and the rest of Asia is not an indicator of "obsession" or even of more prevalence of this phenomenon. Countless data and serious studies (i.e., not lazy reporting by journalists) shows that plastic surgery in Korea is less prevalent than it should attending to its income level. If people with no interest in serious research want to keep on spreading the urban legend that Korea and other Asian countries are somehow obsessed with plastic surgery, fine. Those who work in this business cannot rely on inaccurate urban legends unconnected to reality.

  54. I concur with the Korean regarding how "Sickening" it is to see Korean people being obsessed with plastic surgery. I have an American friend who enjoys watching K-Drama, and he said he can't even tell which actress is which because they all look alike due to plastic surgery. The sad part is I'm Korean and I can't even tell the difference.

    It's one thing to get a double eyelid plastic surgery for people who could be blindfolded with a shoelace, but when someone mutilates her (or even his) body multiple times, what you have is a morbid infatuation with plastic surgery. In other words, you got a psychotic (body dysmorphic disorder) person who has more plastic than a Coca Cola bottling plant. The Fan Lady in Korea is an illuminating example of such afflicted person.

    Lastly, in response to the Korean's "Measuring your Koreanness" question, you are not much of a Korean or Asian if you are obsessed with fake beauty to look like a Caucasian.

  55. Wtf????? I was appalled at the statistics you said up there. Where did you get that 76% of 20-30 aged Korean women get plastic surgery? You have come up with the most wrong information possible. Go to this page below.!!/delta/base64xml/L0lDU0lKQ1RPN29na21BISEvb0VvUUFBSVFnakZJQUFRaENFSVFqR0VBLzRKRmlDbzBlaDFpY29uUVZHaGQtc0lRIS83X0VfREM5LzQ3NzQ0MTI!?workdist=read&id=2155711

    According to this website, about 1.3% of all Koreans get plastic surgery and ranks 2nd on the world, which is a total discrepancy with your statistics. Since it's not only women in their 20s and 30s who get plastic surgery, these 1.3% also consists of other age groups and gender too. Are you saying that 76% of women aged in their 20s and 30s take up LESS than 1.3% of entire Korean population????? What a ridiculous statement.

    I know a lot of Korean women get plastic surgery and I think it's wrong, but YOU HAVE EXAGGERATED IT WAAAAYYY TOO MUCH. PLEEEEEEAAAASE USE THE RIGHTFUL SOURCE.

  56. Good post, but I'm somewhere in between what you said and the poster above. I must admit, your view is taking a completely Western approach, Korean women don't want to look Western like everyone spreads online.

    High noses, double eyelids and all kinds of "beauty" standards have existed in Asia for centuries - it's not a "we saw it in the US and want to copy it" thing. Many countries have these features - and Americans who say that Koreans are trying to copy them can only dream of the beauty that Koreans have (pre and post surgery), its not copying anything. It's a particular look. Also, its prominent but not as widespread and done without question as the media and online pieces like this make it seem, although we all know Korean people who've had it done or want to get it done. But then Westerners don't associate with every aspect of society, just those parts that Westerners are generally exposed to - and those are the parts that happen to contain the plastic surgery fad. There is a larger side to Korea that most foreigners are oblivious to, but they read one or two articles and think that's what the country is all about.

    In some ways it's a problem, yes. But in the same way that I'd totally slap a set of veneers on my teeth as soon as I could afford it - if getting plastic surgery makes someone happy, that's up to them. Would I want my daughter to have it? No. Is it up to her in the end? Yes. Although, I'd hope I influence her in such a way that the thought of changing her natural looks never even crosses her mind, but now we're getting into Korean problems again.

  57. It doesn't help when I can't find a single source that corroborates with the 76%, and I doubt it's true. Other sources indicate that there is less plastic surgery done per capita in Korea than most Asian countries(including USA).

  58. I have never felt the need to have plastic surgery on my own end. It was an eye-opener during my first trip to South Korea though in 2010 during spring(from Canada), and after comparing the Canadian 'laid-back' nature of most people, where makeup is not even much of a habit among women in Canada, South Korean women seem to place a lot of emphasis on wearing makeup and dressing up a lot more than their Korean-Canadian counterparts. It was relatively funny when as a foreigner of NE Asian descent (my maternal grandfather had a very aquiline nose and deep-set eyes, which was what I had via my mother who resembled him), I get comments from the Koreans about my face and how it stood out, and some of the funnier--or more distressing(depending on viewpoint)--experiences included having people whom you know personally look up close at one's double eyelids and nose, and asking whether you have had any 'sang-geo-pul' (double eyelids) or 'ko'(nose) surgery done LOL. I guess that personally, I am not against cosmetic surgery, and after all, cosmetic surgery in South Korea is well-done better than in North America, especially in Hollywood, where some of the women simply should leave it and stop the botoxes which look way way crazy. The basis is in a sense 'corrective' for most of them, as my mother used to say, since they feel that single eyelids or a flat nose are not attractive to them.

    On the flipside, as a really bad joke, I think that I can say, "Thanks mum! I literally saved the equivalent of a few thousand Canadian dollars on any eyelid or nose surgery thanks to the dominant genes from your side...."

  59. 76% is a rather over-blown figure though. What I know as far as sources go is that 30-40% of South Korean women have had some form of cosmetic enhancement somewhere. South Korea does not even rank that high in terms of numbers for women who had cosmetic surgeries, compared to countries like China, the USA, Brazil, Mexico and Japan. It's largely percentage versus numbers. As a friend from Singapore used to joke, "Even if ALL the residents of Singapore(100% but 5 million or so) go under the knife, we would still lose out to other countries on the front of numbers with regards to cosmetic surgery." The percentages get blown out of proportion by foreign sources too, maybe because South Koreans are not as uptight about cosmetic surgery compared to others.

  60. Personally I don't like people having surgery to look pretty in front of others I mean have they ever thought of what god will think god made us different from each other we are unique yes there are things that is not to like about us but hey we all are beautiful and ugly at the same time its all on how you carry it and having a plastic surgery is a pathetic thing to do!!!

  61. Why are single eyelids disliked in Korea? I mean, they serve the same purpose that double eyelids serve, no?
    I wonder who came up with the idea that beauty = double eyelids?

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  62. hello i am korean college student, who lives in seoul.

    this article explain exactly the problem of korean's plastic surgery. i sincerely agree with you, but i don't think so some of your opinions.

    first, in article you mentioned like this. " the trend of beauty in Korea became this Westernized face"

    but i don't think so. yeah it is true koreans do a lot of plastic surgery, but they want to be'natural' through plastic surgery. koreans just want natural change ,and want to get a high confidence, not blindly follow westerns face, for example " oh, i want to operate my eyes like western, my nose like western!!

    also, you said in article that "76 percent (!) of Korean women in their 20s and 30s have undergone plastic surgery. Most of them were epicanthoplasty (i.e. the "double-eyelid surgery".)" but you did not compare koreans statistic to westerns statistic.

    according to International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, ISAPS statistic, in 2009 2010 2011, USA was ranked top 1 in plastic surgery, countries by total number of procedures, on the other hand korean was ranked top 7, 8. through this, USA people do plastic surgery much more than korean.

    Furthermore, you admitted in article that most of koreans' operated areas are double eyelid surgery. on the other hand, USA top 1 operated area was breast augmentation, and top2 was lipoplasty. according to statistic. what does it mean? it means the number of people who do plastic surgery in usa is much more than the number of korean surgery people, and also USA plastic surgery risk is much higher than korean surgery risk. It is a real fact that breast or lipoplast surgery is more dangerous than just double eyelid surgery

    In conclusion, koreans have their own perpective in cosmetic surgery, not following westerns style unconditionally.

    and the number of korean plastic surgery people is lower than the number of usa, and degree of surgery risk in korea is lower than degree in usa


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