Yes, Seoul is the plastic surgery capital of the world. Yes, I planned to visit Seoul. But no, that does not mean I ever expected myself to become connected with plastic surgery in literally any way. Life is ironic that way. Turns out, the world of plastic surgery has much more depth than I ever gave it credit for.
So how did I learn this? Great question. The short story: I received an invitation to a kbeauty-related event. I decided to go, not truly knowing what I signed up for. The long story? That takes a bit more explanation…
Plastic Surgery in South Korea
South Korea has the highest per-capita rate of plastic surgery in the world. Why? In the words of a more-experienced foreigner, “Sometimes in Korea you just don’t ask why.” Yeah, this is one of those times. Essentially though, Korean culture encourages a traditional look of beauty. Plastic surgery is simply seen as a form of enhancement.
For Western audiences, this attitude mimics general opinions of makeup as simply beauty enhancement. Yeah, mindblowing, I know. This is why you just accept some aspects of Korean culture.
What’s up with Korean plastic surgery?
The frequency of plastic surgeries fed the development of technology in the field. Plastic surgery comes in many forms: nose-jobs, eyelid crease additions, skin pigmentations, and (for women) breast augmentation. At the event I attended, the premier plastic surgery clinic Banobagi partnered with cutting edge breast augmentation company Motiva in collaboration with Seoul Cosmetic Surgery. Together, the businesses inform attendees about these developments in the field.
In recent years, these advances have begun to attract foreigners considering different procedures. Medical tourism has certainly grown in South Korea. In 2018, over 400,000 tourists visited Korea for medical purposes. Tourism companies, such as Seoul Cosmetic Surgery, have thrived off such growth. Just like any other travel agency, these companies help you plan your medical holiday. With Korea’s cutting edge technology and reduced health costs, the industry growth makes sense and what makes Seoul Cosmetic Surgery stands out is their ability to customize every foreigner’s needs.
Well, the growth makes partial sense to me.
Some forms of plastic surgery, particularly the smaller and less invasive ones, seem more reasonable to me. Give your eyelids an extra crease, sure. Make your skin look a bit younger, alright. But make your chest bigger? That one makes me pause.
Quite ironic since I unknowingly attended an event on breast augmentation. Really, I had one question…
Why would women undergo breast augmentation?
As if expecting my skepticism, a panel of women spoke on this exact topic. All of them had undergone breast augmentation surgery and they spoke highly of the experience. According to one, “you don’t have boobs and you want boobs so you get boobs. It’s as simple as that.”
More extensively, the women discussed how the decision for surgery was personally motivated. Honestly, this came as quite a shock to me. Call me cynical, but I expected beauty stereotypes and perfectionist culture to have way more importance here. I guess I’m happily surprised at my inaccuracy.
Rather, every woman on the panel discussed her a personal journey filled with advice, research, and consultation. Only after this journey did they choose to go through with the surgery. As they spoke, they encouraged the audience to take time before making any decisions for cosmetic surgery. I guess living your best life looks different for everyone — and, for some women, maybe that journey includes cosmetic surgery.
While I haven’t decided to pursue any form of plastic surgery myself, I have a fundamentally different mindset towards the field. I used to consider Korea’s plastic surgery as obsessive and shallow, but I now recognize such a view as inaccurate. Korean beauty simply comes in a way I had never experienced previously. I saw plastic surgery as a “you need this” push onto women. Not so in Korea. Here, culture simply says, “if you want this, it’s possible and its accepted.”
Ultimately, plastic surgery seems like a decision to do something to make you feel better about yourself. That message of encouragement and empowerment, I will happily support.
As I have learned here in Seoul: beauty is beauty is beauty is beauty is beauty — plastic surgery or not.
A Reformed Beauty Enthusiast
P.S. There’s much more to kbeauty than plastic surgery, take a look here to find out more!