Cosmetic Surgery is hugely popular in Korea. Get on any bus or subway and you will adverts like the one below describing how you can change the shape of your nose, your eyes, the shape of your face, your bum, your breasts…you name it, they have it. Take a walk down the well-to-do neighborhood of Apujeong or Gangnam in Seoul and you can guarantee most of those beautiful women are 90% plastic. Most of these adverts imply that you will be more beautiful, more confident and attract richer men after cosmetic surgery, with advertisements often displaying large diamond rings, beautiful models, handsome boyfriends and sexy bikinis!
Having lived in Korea for 10 months now I thought I had seen and heard it all. From my friend’s co-teachers getting nose jobs to fellow teachers getting freckles removed and eyelids permanently tattooed with eyeliner, people getting laser hair removal, liposuction, stories of calf reductions and the always popular breast enlargements.
However, today I was left speechless. Today I was left feeling puzzled, confused and most of all sad at Koreans need for altering their appearance. One of my star students didn’t show up for class today so I asked her best friends why she was missing.
Me: ” Where is X today?”
Student: “Oh she went to the hospital”
Me: Oh no, what happened?”
Student: “Oh she is short but wants to be tall.”
Me: “Ok..but why is she gone to the HOSPITAL?!”
Student, (puzzled at my obvious stupidity!) “To get tall!”
The way she said it was so surprising to me. As if that’s a total normal thing. Oh yeah, you know, just popped down to the Doc’s to get stretched…” WHAT THE HELL! I actually would not have believed what I was hearing had it not been coming out of the mouth of one of my star students who has near fluent English. It took several more minutes for her to explain exactly what was going on as I stood there ta the front of the classroom speechless.
An older women getting surgery is one thing. Even younger women trying to enhance their facial features or obese people looking for liposuction but what kind of parent allows and even perhaps ENCOURAGES their 14 year old, beautiful, extremely talented and intelligent daughter to start a months long, excruciatingly painful procedure in order to lengthen her legs??? I really, really, REALLY hope she doesn’t go through with it. 😦