“To get a job;” “So people will befriend me;” and “To look more Caucasian.”
These are three of the many answers that Borderless News Online heard when we asked Koreans in Seoul why up to 80 percent of Korean women get plastic surgery.
Korea is a plastic surgery mecca, and it’s common for Korean women to have their eyes and noses — and increasingly their jaws, chins and cheekbones — surgically altered.
The goal is to look more Western, the beauty standard in Korea and other parts of Asia.
“Our country’s and Asia’s beauty standards are influenced by the West,” Dr. Min, a plastic surgeon in Seoul, told Borderless News, in the video above.
That sounds odd to many Westerners, but for Korans it’s completely normal.
Eunjee, a university student in Seoul, and Sonny, a freelance graphic designer in her 20s, say that up to 80 percent of Korean women have surgery on their eyelids, in order to make their eyes appear rounder and more Western.
The two young ladies feel there’s nothing wrong with this, contending that if plastic surgery makes you feel better about yourself — in a country where, they say, women have low self-esteem — why not do it?
“I think it’s good if they can overcome their shortcomings,” Sonny says.
Still, it’s possible to go to far, they say.
“Of course too much is not nice,” Sonny says. “I think it’s best to look natural.”
Chiming in, Eunjee says: “Me too. Too much is not pleasant for other people to look at.”
While Korean women have been getting plastic surgery for over a decade, the last few years have seen women getting more than just eye jobs and nose jobs. Some young ladies are re-arranging their entire faces, carving down the bones in their jaws to give them a more angular, Caucasian look, as well as re-shaping their foreheads, says Dr. Min.
When asked what percentage of her friends have had plastic surgery, Sonny says about 80 percent, and both say that most young Korean women get their eyes done.
“Almost everyone gets double eyelid surgery,” says Eunjee, referring to the common procedure in Korea to have their eyelids re-shaped to look more Western.
Eunjee and Sonny say there’s much pressure in Korea to be beautiful, adding that one has to be pretty even so people will just befriend you.
Unjae, in her late 20s, says Korean women believe — based on quite a lot of anecdotal evidence — they must get plastic surgery in order to get a job.
That’s because of the way corporate Korea is set up. The country’s economy is ruled by a handful of chaebol, or conglomerates, which are dominated by men, and where it’s very difficult for women to move up.
Most of the hiring managers are middle aged men, many of whom want to staff their offices with the most beautiful female admin staff. This is easy to do, since in Korea it’s standard procedure for job applicants to place their photo in the upper right corner of their resumes. Many people say that hiring managers, when seeking to fill positions, simply put the pretty women’s resume’s in one pile and throw the rest in the trash.
When asked whether Korean women get plastic surgery to get a better job, Unjae replies “these days, it’s become more normal.”
Dr. Min, however, says Korea’s plastic surgery craze is simple a natural progression of development. After the Korean War, Korans struggled for decades. At one time, Korea’s Gross Domestic Product was the same as those of many impoverished African countries.
But through a several factors including one of the world’s toughest work ethics, a strong national emphasis on education, and leaders’ laser-like focus on development, Korea grew. After several decades, the country went from being one of the world’s poorest countries to one of the world’s riches — the so-called “Korean economic miracle.”
Dr. Min says now is the time of the “well being generation” — a generation that doesn’t have to worry about survival, and it’s main concern is taking care of one’s self. Plastic surgery is simply an extension of that, he says.
WATCH to get more in-depth on the issue. Just click the video above, or click here.
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