Overtaking Brazil as the cosmetic surgery capital of the world, South Korea now has the highest number of surgeries performed per capita. Western celebrity culture is driving an interest in double eyelid surgery.The procedure creates the “Caucasian crease” that many Asian women don’t naturally have and now aspire to.
The transformations can be so extreme that individuals are no longer recognisable to themselves, their families, or customs authorities.
“A recent boom in plastic surgery tourism from nearby countries like China and Japan means many of (the visitors) now need hard proof of their surgeries to get past customs in their homeland” – RYOT.org
Some enthusiastically embrace this blending of cultures and see it as a reflection of the mingling of ethnicities worldwide. Dr Kim Byung-gun, head of Seoul, South Korea’s largest cosmetic surgery clinic believes that investing in cosmetic surgery to slightly Westernise the face will bring a return on the investment of 100 times, through more confidence, a better job and obtaining a better marital partner.
About 30% of Kim’s patients are international, and of that group, 90% are Chinese. “They don’t like their faces,” says the doctor. “They have big cheekbones, big mandible angle without double fold, and a low profile nose. They are seeking to have a westernised face, high profile nose, slender nice cheekbone and mandible bone.”
Others, however, fear that eye and other facial enhancement procedures are actually not-so-subtle expressions of self-loathing.
“They’re making a statement about their own race, about where they come from, who they are. They’re not doing it on purpose. They’re not saying that they think they’re inferior looking. They’re not saying they’re ugly, but that’s the message that they’re giving nonetheless.“- Editor of Giant Robot magazine and Asian American commentator Martin Wong, Editor, Giant Robot Magazine
The changing face of global beauty doesn’t stop at the eyes. Dental surgeon Jung Hak told CNN he’s been fighting a trendwhere Korean mothers bring in their toddlers to have the muscle under the tongue that connects it to the bottom of the mouth surgically snipped. The belief is that this will enable Korean children to speak English more clearly.
Also troubling is the age at which these surgeries are being performed. “If I get the surgery, my eyes will look bigger,” explains 12-year-old ballet student Min-kyong. Everyone, she says, points out her small eyes. It’s why she doesn’t think she’s a pretty girl.
She lacks confidence, Min-kyong’s mother told CNN, a problem she hopes will be solved by cosmetic eye surgery. The girl will undergo blepharoplasty, an eyelid surgery that will create a double fold to widen her eye and give her a slightly more western look.