Is South Korea the New Brazil of Plastic Surgery?

A. Foley on 27 Sep 2012 at 9:00am

Brazil may have earned a reputation for being the plastic surgery capital, not only with the prevalence of procedures, but with its cultural openness - however, South Korea is making some moves toward that title.

For starters, as this Economist graph demonstrates, South Korea has more cosmetic procedures performed per person than any other country by a decisive margin. In fact, 20% of women in South Korea’s capital city, Seoul, have had work done.

While Brazil still reigns supreme for breast and butt procedures, eyelid surgeries are particularly popular in South Korea. The procedure, also known as blepharoplasty, makes one’s eyes appear wider.

This procedure is likely a byproduct of a Westernized beauty ideal. For example, Kim Yumi, the beauty pageant winner who holds the title of Miss South Korea 2012, admits that she has had multiple cosmetic surgeries, explaining, “I never said that I was born beautiful.”

But South Korean women aren’t the only people chasing a new definition of beauty: the men partake, as well. Men in the country are more likely to wear makeup and have procedures because Korea considers femininity a desirable appearance for both genders, and, according to a Korean studies professor, “a marker of social success.”

Much like Brazil, South Korean is also gaining attention for its rising medical tourism industry. As doctors refine their craft, foreigners are flocking to the country for the expertise of its doctors.

Even though cosmetic enhancements stimulates the economy, it doesn’t appear that the South Korean government is eager to take the plastic surgery prize from Brazil anytime soon. The nation’s leaders recently released an anti-plastic surgery advertising campaign to help curb the obsession.


Where do you think the line is drawn between cultural openness and a cultural obsession? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


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