Under the Knife


“You’re very beautiful, trust me, but let’s do something about that jawline?”

We are all human. Therefore by nature we are imperfect. To some people these imperfections are what make us unique, distinctive individuals. To others these imperfections simply remain imperfections. Every day we attempt to make a conscious effort to improve ourselves – eating healthier food, exercising daily, wearing form-fitting clothing, getting monolid surgery, etc. Something strike you as off about the list?

In the United States and much of North America, plastic surgery is a taboo. Those who go under the knife are considered “fake” or “plastic.” Many celebrities who have had a procedure have received extreme criticism. Prominent figures like Kylie Jenner, Bella Hadid, and Iggy Azalea all felt backlash at some point for their physical changes. In much of America, the phrase “you are beautiful just the way you are” is commonplace, yet the beauty standards we set men and women alike up to suggest otherwise. Looking specifically at the ideal American woman, she should have a small waist—but not too tiny, some curves—but not too much, a tan complexion—but not too dark, tall height—but not giant—and a beautiful face. And although many believe it is only celebrities who get plastic surgery, in 2012 alone 14.6 million procedures were done in the United States. Despite the large number of surgeries done however, it is rare to encounter someone boasting about their recent nose job.

In an almost parallel universe is South Korea, a new recent technological powerhouse and world power. The small country shares similar beauty standards as China, Japan, and even Thailand. Looking specifically at the ideal Korean woman, she would have a V-shaped jawline—but not too angular, double creased eyelids—but overall big eyes, very fair skin—but not ghostly pale, small body proportions—but not too skinny, and a cute face. It is then evident that both South Korea and the U.S. are similar in the sense that they have more than unrealistic beauty standards, but their stances on ways to achieve such “beauty” drastically differ. In South Korea exists a mentality that if you are able to physically improve yourself, what reason is there not to. Of course in Korean society, looks play more of a role in one’s success than in the U.S. When filling out a Korean job application for example, your picture ID is required. More often times than not, if two potential employees are of the same level of competency, the more attractive individual will get the job. In order to become more attractive then, whether that be for economic or purely aesthetic reasons, plastic surgery is the go-to choice.

Currently South Korea has the highest rate of plastic surgery per capita in the world. It is not just the older generations trying to appear younger or middle-aged adults getting a few touch ups done however that contribute to the huge number. In fact, it is not unheard of for a Korean highschool girl to receive monolid eye surgery from her parents as a graduation gift. Many argue that this surge of unrealistic beauty expectations is due to the mainstream hallyu wave of Korean entertainment. Kpop, or Korean pop music, along with intensely followed Kdramas, or Korean TV dramas, depict the most flawless of Asian performers, actors, and actresses. Korean entertainment is extremely popular in all of Asia, but its biggest consumer remains China, as well as its origin of South Korea. Korean entertainment, just like American entertainment, only really portray the most beautiful of celebrities, but one would think that due to the different beauty standards, these celebrities would look drastically different.

To the surprise of many however, the expectations for a Korean woman are eerily similar to those of the American woman. The double-crease eyelid is currently the most common surgery in South Korea, in which those with monolids can get a more “Westernized” look. Big, round eyes along with fairer skin are also traditional physical traits of the “American woman.” Although many Koreans would deny that plastic surgery is to appear more “white” and less “Asian,” there is no doubt that at the very minimum there are some underlying similarities. As American entertainment and much of the Western world is looked at by many other countries, it is no coincident that as a result our own beauty standards have had a tendency to manifest themselves in the standards of other countries.

Regardless, it is a given that very rarely is an individual naturally born fitting the Korean or American ideas of beauty. This then can be one of the contributing reasons that someone might go under the knife. But the question of whether or not it is “wrong” however, is up for debate. Although some argue that the surgery is a result of lack of self-confidence, sometimes people simply wish to make a small change. While to some surgery is a sign of conforming and an unwilling to accept oneself, to others it is just like getting a tattoo or any other type of body modification. Regardless, everyone is entitled to make their own decisions about their body, and whether or not they get plastic surgery is no exception.


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