Thoughts on Plastic Surgery

By  Sarah     8/20/2014    Tags:,,, 
Today I want to talk about something deep. Maybe not ocean deep, but at least skin deep. I want to talk about the flaws we find in ourselves.

So when I look in the mirror, I see a lot of things that I would like to fix about myself. Like most Asians, I find my nose too wide and my face too round. I can't do much about my spots and blemishes because it's hormonal and pops up whenever I'm stressed, anxious, or experiencing "the joys" of womanhood. I'm also quite short so I always wanted to be a few inches taller. (Short person perk: touching my toes were never an issue growing up and to this day I can still reach them easily without doing any warm-up stretches.) I could go on and on about what's wrong with me, but I won't bore you.

As any woman, I've been brought up to feel extremely self-conscious about my appearance. Thus, I have a love-hate relationship with the idea of plastic surgery. We all have this notion that everyone is special and beautiful the way they are and that it is both unnecessary and a shame to go under the knife. In the USA we have a strange, standardized notion that plastic surgery is something to hide and be ashamed of. It is looked down upon as something exceedingly vain and, because of its price, a frivolity available only to the immeasurably wealthy. This particular view only heightens the shame of those who wish to have plastic surgery, especially the average Jane or Joe. Celebrities seem to be exempt from this shame (though not the ridicule), as being glamorous and beautiful is expected of a Hollywood star. But that's a double-standard. Why can't us ordinary shmucks have the same privilege?

Of course, if your appearance is making your life dysfunctional in some way, plastic surgery seems like the most appealing option; being severely bullied, having some sort of disfiguration, or some other third thing that would make it all forgivable. However, if it's only a slight hindrance to what would otherwise be a perfect selfie, it's hard to justify in our society. Well...

Not in South Korea!

So I've always been in the 'it's-your-body-do-what-you-want-with-it' school of thought, but even this is a bit extreme. I have a born-and-raised South Korean friend named Esther who discussed the plastic surgery 'scene' in South Korea and a lot of what she shared with me was quite shocking.

For those who don't already know, South Korea is the world's leading country for the most plastic surgery. It is so common, in fact, that parents often use it to reward their children for their good grades. Can you imagine? I got my favorite home-cooked dinner if my grades were good, not a rhinoplasty! The most popular procedure is double-eyelid surgery. According to Esther, this surgery eliminates the 'mono-lid' that most East Asians have and gives them bigger, more 'Western'-looking eyes. Surgery clinics are everywhere in South Korea and not only is it apparently common, but it's also something to brag about among school friends.

According to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS), Korea ranks first on a per capita basis, with 13.5 cosmetic procedures performed per 1000 individuals. That is insane!

After some half-assed Google searches, I found the term: plastic surgery tourism. It means exactly as it sounds. As the leading country in plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures, South Korea experiences a high volume of plastic surgery tourism where individuals from other countries travel to South Korea in order to get a procedure done. And it's not a bad idea either! According to several different rates I've found from both US and SK clinics, getting plastic surgery South Korea is definitely much cheaper than getting one in the USA. A rhinoplasty, for example, goes for about $5,000-$7,000+ in the USA whereas in South Korea, the prices range from $2,500-$3,000+. Including roundtrip airfare, getting a nose job or something equivalent is still much cheaper in South Korea. Also according to my research, Gangnam, SK seems to be the place to get your new looks. Go get yo Gangnam style! 

Even after having tumbled into this plastic surgery wiki-hole for a while, I still don't know how I feel. There are plenty of beautiful before and after shots of South Koreans on Google getting plastic surgery, but there are also plenty of horrifying 'botched' before and afters. Knowing myself, I'll keep this love-hate dilemma of plastic surgery without ever making up my mind, maybe get one done someday, and absolutely go back to missing my old face. That sounds weird... but sounds about right for me.

I think there's nothing inherently wrong with wanting to look more conventionally attractive, as dictated by society. I would say it's normal, even. However, plastic surgery should always, always be about YOU— not for other people. Because at the end of the day, you are the one who has to live with yourself. If getting plastic surgery will give you a confidence boost, I say go for it. Why not? But if you only want plastic surgery so you can look better for your Instagram posts, I wouldn't recommend it. Because there's a bigger issue at hand— you are someone who only values yourself by the number of 'likes' you receive from others... You deserve more than that.

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