In South Korea, plastic surgery is standard equipment for a young woman

November 17, 2011

Young Korean women ask surgeons to copy the faces of starlets.
Young Korean women ask surgeons to copy the faces of starlets.

In South Korea, mom may take you for a facelift before she takes you to a match-maker. Instead of friends asking you where you got your handbag, they might ask, “Where did you get your nose? Where did you get your chin”? Eye surgery may be your reward for passing your college entrance exam and department stores abound with young women, wearing big, dark postoperative glasses.

Because of the surgical boom, women, who ask surgeons to copy photos of starlets, can look increasingly alike. Koreans define a pretty face as a smaller, more sharply defined youthful face – a more or less Westernized look. Since 90 percent of Koreans do not have that look, 90 percent are potential patients. A Korean film director was actually hard pressed to find an actress with a round face and natural eyes for a film that was set in old Korea.

Southern Seoul has a “beauty belt,” a swarm of plastic surgery clinics clustered around a string of subway stations in the upscale districts. A total of 4,000 clinics provide cosmetic surgery; the law allows doctors from other disciplines to switch to this lucrative field.

In Korea, a double-fold eyelid operation is so routine that very few women have their original eyelid shape. Now, double-jaw surgery, which was originally developed to repair facial deformities, and involves cutting and rearranging the upper and lower jaws – has become popular. Dr.Park Sang-hoon, head of ID Hospital, a top-ranked clinic in the beauty belt, has performed 3,000 such procedures in the past six years. He tells the New York Times on November 4, 2011l, “What we do in double-jaw surgery is to reassemble the face. Normal people become, sort of, super-normal, and pretty people prettier.”

A Korean psychologist describes plastic surgery as a weapon in Koreans’ efforts to impress others, just like a Mercedes-Benz. The Seoul city government performed a survey that indicated that today, 31.5 percent of residents 15 or older were willing to undergo surgery to improve their looks. In 2007 the percentage was 21.5. Some clinics host “Cinderella events” where patients appear in ads in exchange for free surgery. Most of the takers are young women entering the marriage and job markets.


The mission of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) includes medical education, public education and patient advocacy. Plastic Surgery News Briefs are summaries of current stories found through various news and magazine outlets that relate to or mention plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures. The views expressed in these news articles do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASAPS, but are merely published as an educational service to our members and the general public. For additional information on these subjects and other plastic surgery related topics, please go to www.surgery.org

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About ASAPS
The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), is recognized as the world’s leading organization devoted entirely to aesthetic plastic surgery and cosmetic medicine of the face and body.  ASAPS is comprised of over 2,600 Plastic Surgeons; active members are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (USA) or by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and have extensive training in the complete spectrum of surgical and non-surgical aesthetic procedures. International active members are certified by equivalent boards of their respective countries. All members worldwide adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and must meet stringent membership requirements.

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