South Korea No.1 for most plastic surgery per capita, report says

The culture of cosmetic surgery is far less tucked away than in other countries, with a nose job or a blepharoplasty commonly given as high school graduation gifts.

By Elizabeth Shim
South Korea No.1 for most plastic surgery per capita, report says
South Korean beauty pageant contestants in 2013, pictured here, were the subject of a viral meme that pointed to their similar facial features. Photo by HankookiTV/YouTube

SEOUL, April 7 (UPI) -- South Korea's plastic surgery culture is booming, and a popular television show is adding to the preoccupation with good looks in Asia's fourth-largest economy.

In Seoul, plastic surgery clinics line an entire neighborhood, with names like "Magic Nose," "Top Class," "Small Face," and "Wannabe," according to The New Yorker.


"By some estimates, South Korea is ranked No.1 for the most plastic surgery procedures per capita," writes Patricia Marx.

But according to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, South Korea has yet to be included in the top five countries for cosmetic procedures, with the United States still occupying the top position for all procedures combined.

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The culture of plastic surgery in South Korea, however, is far more quotidian than in the West. Marx writes a high school graduation gift can be a nose job or a blepharoplasty, otherwise known as double-eyelid surgery.

A viral meme in 2013 mocked the bizarre consequences of the surgery craze in South Korea. The beauty pageant candidates in the meme seemed to look exactly alike, reported Cosmopolitan.

Plastic surgery trends often go by catchy nicknames.


The "Bagel Girl" look, which has nothing to do with breakfast foods, was an abbreviation for "baby-faced and glamorous," a procedure that in theory would endow a patient with a voluptuous body and a schoolgirl face.

The desire and the pressure to look beautiful for young women, however, have taken a turn for the bizarre with a television show called Let Me In.

Each contestant on the show is given a cruel nickname, such as "Girl Who Looks Like Frankenstein," "Flat-Chested Mother," or "Monkey."

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Video by id hospital korea plastic surgery/YouTube

They are scrutinized by a panel of beauty "experts" who listen to their personal tales of social rejection before being transformed into cosmetically enhanced beauties.

The contestants' parents are brought to apologize for endowing their offspring with "crummy genes...[and] for being too poor to afford plastic surgery."

On March 24, The New Republic contrasted the plastic surgery craze in South Korea to another kind of the obsession in the United States – involving "natural" beauty standards that remain fixated on concerns about women's appearance despite a general social denial about harboring such concerns.

"It's clear that a culture that shames women for going under the knife hasn't solved the underlying concerns that inspires them to do so," wrote Phoebe Maltz Bovy, referring to The New Yorker piece.


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