South Korea is a relatively small country with a large number of people. It is also known for its deep-rooted racism, fascination with beauty and a great measure of wealth - the perfect combination to make the country a kingdom of cosmetic surgery.
Imagine you have a young daughter who is just about to graduate from college and will soon start looking for her first job. She is very smart and ambitious, but a little average in appearance. And because you want the best for your child, you pay for her facial cosmetic surgery. They'll shave her too-rounded jaw, open her eyes a little, make her lips more plump and lighten up her skin so her potential employers wouldn't think your family has an agricultural background.
What is this insanity? you might be wondering right now, but if you lived in South Korea, you'd probably think it's a very good investment. There, more than anywhere else in the world, the rule applies that attractive people get more interesting and better paid jobs. That makes your daughter's cosmetic surgery an investment into her future, which will secure a better and richer life for her. In short, intelligence isn't enough, you have to invite success with the help of scalpels and lasers. And having your jaw "shaved" into a perfect V is the right step, because it's considered a sign of female beauty in Korea. Nevermind the fact that most South Korean girls are born with a round face.
A neighborhood full of beauty clinics
In short, South Koreans are obsessed with aesthetic medicine; they've even built a whole new district in Seoul that specializes in this area. And because the country has over 50 million inhabitants, every young person wants to stand out in order to excel, attract attention and have a chance to find not only a good job, but also the best possible partner. It may sound awful, but truth remains that if you're ugly, average or too dark, no one will touch you with a barge pole.
Owner of an aesthetic medicine clinic, Roman Šmlucler, confirms this. "Cosmetic surgery in the USA and partly in Russia is oriented toward an ideal of beauty, and when the doctors do a good job, all the clients look the same. In Korea, on the other hand, there is an effort to differentiate people aesthetically, to underline individual details," he told LP-Life.cz, adding that if someone has a darker skin, they are automatically considered to be a member of a lower class.
South Koreans, but even people from other Asian nations, envy us Europeans our fair skin. And if they can, they bleach theirs. Simply put, it is a parameter of beauty that the young generation desires. We don't have to go very far for an example. Just look at the girl dancing in the subway from the famous music video Gangham Style by the South Korean rapper PSY - her skin is unusually pale. And it is the case with many local bands of the popular k-pop genre.
Actually, these boy and girl bands are a phenomenon in themselves. Due to the fact that millions of teenagers all over the world are crazy about them, music production corporations create these bands pretty much as "turnkey" projects. There are big auditions, choreographies are fine-tuned, clothing preselected - and looks, naturally, are big part of this. A girl that has a chance to become the new South Korean pop star will enthusiastically undergo a number of beauty surgeries. And believe you us, if she hesitated, her parents would very quickly convince her not to throw away such a chance. After all, a thousand other girls are waiting in like to take her place!
This whole plastic machinery has a huge skeleton in the closet, namely unsuccessful operations or complications. Jaw adjustments in particular are a really drastic intervention, and so it's by far not an exception if something doesn't go according to plan. Complications occur in up to tens of percent of cases, whether it is reduced sensitivity of the face, stiffening of the jaw, the so-called "wandering" of the mouth to one side or excessive tearing and drooling. There have been instances when girls committed suicide because of a failed surgery. They believe their lives no longer had meaning.
But even that doesn't deter crowds of young people from taking this risk. If the procedure is successful, it's almost like winning the lottery.
The main principles of young South Koreans:
Try not to resemble your parents, especially if their skin is slightly darker than average
If your face is too round, have your jaw shaved to a "V" shape
Don't be afraid to take a loan for a cosmetic surgery, it's a good investment and will return soon
Intelligence is not enough, you won't succeed in a crowded city without beauty
You may be Asian, but slanted eyes are not in fashion, have them straighten up a bit
Hard number: 33 %
That's how many South Korean girls aged 19 to 29 underwent cosmetic surgery. It's almost a half of the whole population.