There is little more that annoys me than the statement that Korean people, or Asian people in general use plastic surgery to make themselves look more Western. It’s a statement that has been so wholly accepted as fact that I’ve heard Asian people who have grown up in the West parrot it themselves, particularly about South Koreans who have earned themselves the reputation of being a nation that love to fix their faces.
I don’t have much to say about how common plastic surgery is in Korea (not uncommon sure, but also not as widespread as some media makes out- statistically about 20% of Korean women have had some kind of procedure), except that it’s a situation that has arisen from the combination of access, availability, reasonable pricing (depending on the procedure) and general societal acceptance. That combination of factors I’d argue would have the same result anywhere considering the worldwide obsession with youth and beauty.
However, the repeated (and erroneous) assertions that Korean people desire plastic surgery in order to look more Western, or white, is typical of a casual, subconscious colonialist attitude which assumes ‘minority’ cultures are filled with self-loathing, and vindicates the superiority of white behaviour/looks/lifestyles in one fell swoop, and I am officially irritated by it. Rampant plastic surgery is undoubtedly a juicy topic that speaks of contemporary first world malaise, but in being placed in an ‘exotic’ context, the surrounding narrative immediately shifts to suggest plastic surgery as a form of self-mutilation rather than an intense search for beauty. In a Hollywood context, plastic surgery is monstrous merely for its vanity and superficiality, but in Asia, the subtext to plastic surgery from a Western perspective, is a cultural self-hatred.
The automatic assumption that Western beauty is the ultimate form of beauty, and therefore the ultimate goal, informs so much of this narrative, that any feature that coincides with a Western conception of beauty is used as evidence of a desire to be more “white”. Western people do not have a monopoly on privileging large eyes as a marker of beauty, nor are they the only race that have “double-eyelids” (let me state that a huge proportion of Asian people have naturally occurring double eye-lids), but apparently South Korean women’s desire to have this eyelid surgery is synonymous with the desire to look Western.
To illustrate how ridiculous that association is out of context, Read More →