Koreans have a wide range of excuses for undergoing cosmetic surgery. Building confidence and self-esteem, getting a better job, and getting a competitive edge are the most common justifications. A rise in the standard of living and the rapid development of Korea have pushed individuals to believe that they need to constantly improve themselves. A vast industry has developed and plastic surgery has become inexpensive, accessible, safe, and socially accepted. For fun, young people get together and visit clinics to get an opinion on how they can improve their physical features. And due to peer pressure, they frequently return and proceed with the suggested surgery. Celebrities and the media portray cosmetic surgery as routine trips to the doctor’s office.
Seoul’s Gangnam District is a premiere destination for business, tourism, shopping, dining, and plastic surgery clinics. From the wealth of “before” and “after” shots posted in the subway and on buses, it’s clear that there’s a social problem here. The article Plastic Island in today’s Korea Times estimates that 1 out of 10 Koreans have had invasive or non-invasive plastic surgery. The quest for beauty shows no limits under the knife.
Celebrity addiction to the drug Propofol is also a hot issue right now. See story here. Propofol is an anesthesia that’s injected through an IV drip prior to plastic surgery. It helps patients to sleep and numbs them before going through surgery. In recent years, it has become famous for contributing to the death of Michael Jackson. Some plastic surgeons enjoy the attention they receive for having celebrity clientele and are willing to administer Propofol well beyond a patient’s actual treatment. Several high profile Korean stars have recently made the news for having as many as 185 injections in less than one year’s time.
성형 수술 (seong-hyeong susul) – plastic surgery
성형 괴물 (seong-hyeong goe-mul) – plastic surgery monster. A derogatory term for a person who has had too much plastic surgery. The trend is to abbreviate expressions and so the commonly spoken form is 성괴 (seong-goe).