When one delves into Kpop culture a debate on plastic surgery isn’t far behind. This Opinion Editorial deals specifically with young girls and women getting plastic surgery, with a focused look on plastic surgery in Korea.


A friend of mine asked me yesterday if I would get plastic surgery if it was completely free. And I thought about it for a split-second and responded no. In that split second I verified exactly what it was about plastic surgery that I wouldn’t go for. And it had nothing to do with money. When you think about all the things that lead up to plastic surgery money is the last issue on my mind. What I think about is the pain: physical pain after having to heal from knife wound and mental pain that surely led to the decision to take a knife to your face or any part of your body. What’s most troubling and what I talk about in this post is when young women get cosmetic surgery because surgery is not like makeup. You can wash make-up off, decide to stop wearing it. It is the difference between a pencil and permanent marker, it’s the difference between forever and a couple of hours. Eye-liner and eye-shadow aren’t applied with a scalpel.

I’m saddened when I think of so many young girls getting plastic surgery. Especially young Korean girls. The astonishingly widespread practice of Koreans getting the double-eyelid surgery and the nose job to get a higher nose bridge represents, to me, a deep-seeded dislike of one’s “Korean-ness” that has been permeated by Eurocentricism. You can’t deny that. In the Joseon Dynasty no woman was defiling their eye-lids to look white, nor were they wishing that their nose bridges were higher. There were certainly people telling them that they were “less than” in some respect, but not until the early twentieth century was the idea that you are less than because your eyes or nose weren’t like that of your white, Western counterparts spread. And not until recently did anyone say, you can and SHOULD do something about it.
I also can’t understand that it doesn’t freak anyone else out that so many people are going under the knife. Recently, one of my friends-soon to be breaking into the Korean entertainment scene-said, “You know, I think I might have to get something done. Everyone gets something done before they debut.” This is coming from a girl who had finally come to terms with the way she looks (and she’s very pretty) but because she may be breaking into the industry she feels she has to do what “everyone” does and go under the knife. If all of these women that represent the standards of beauty, by dint of being in the media, are going under the knife, does that not send a horrid message to the young girls that idolize them? Does that not also speak to the bigger cultural phenomenon we are in the midst of, of young girls running to plastic surgeons to cure all of their problems with inadequacy? But we can brush this all under the rug and say it’s okay for now. Talking about the real implications of young girls and women getting plastic surgery would open up a can of worms people aren’t yet ready for.
A 17-year old girl I went to high school with got liposuction and a nosejob this past summer. I believe she had to go home to Colombia and get it done because she didn’t tell her parents and she’s underage. She was never fat, and I vaguely remember her complaining about her nose. This is a 17 year-old girl, severely insecure and barely old enough to realize why getting unnecessary liposuction is, in fact, unnecessary. She couldn’t even identify why she was unhappy with her nose, or with her stomach besides saying, well, it didn’t look like those of the women in the magazines.

One of my good friends from high school got her eyes done and she’s the chillest person I know. She was definitely prettier but it wasn’t because her eyes had a slight fold now. It was because after the surgery she stopped wearing her glasses, got contacts, started dressing up and was overall more confident. Her surgery didn’t make her more attractive, it was a short cut to make her more confident. For young girls plastic surgery is rarely independent from insecurity heightened by those around you saying that there is something better and that you aren’t enough. I think it’s well worth it to figure out for yourself what beauty is and how you’re beautiful before you surrender to living your life by someone else’s standards, standards that they themselves don’t fully realize or believe.

Now for a little bit of science: The frontal lobe of the brain is responsible for making decisions between good and bad (better or best), recognizing consequences for one’s actions, reasoning, impulse control and judgement. The frontal lobe does not fully develop until around age 25. The average kpop star debuts when they are 18 or younger. A majority of them get plastic surgery.


And in terms of Korean plastic surgery it’s imperative that one truly understands what they’re doing before they go under the knife. As an ethnic minority (aka not white) there are so many forces saying that you should change to look more like the majority. Usually it is not direct. It’s by the absence of anyone that looks like you in magazines and the absence of stars that haven’t had plastic surgery that causes feelings of inadequacy. It is in the presence of so many stars that have changed their eyes and noses to go along with this trend, in the presence of mothers and friends saying, “It’s about time you got ______ done”. It is like a genocide of the features when young girls change the shape and look of their faces in ways that make them look less Asian. Another one of my good Korean friends said, explicitly, that she wanted plastic surgery to look more white or Western because, in her words, “that’s want people want to look like, they won’t accept seeing anything else.”

Knife to the eyes. Cartilage rammed up the nose (or shaved off the nose), a cut and altered jaw. It’s just too much, and in the end you’re still the same person but your insecurities are carved into your face. I don’t think that all plastic surgery is bad, I don’t even think that all frivolous plastic surgery is bad, I think that when these young girls get plastic surgery without the capacity to truly understand what they are doing and without the maturity and the self-respect to stay true to themselves it starts (it has already started) a cycle of superficial self-destruction. I don’t have a problem with people able to make an educated, intelligent decision in whether or not to get plastic surgery. People are allowed to do what ever they want, but I’m talking about the implications. When people can’t identify why they think what they have isn’t good enough, is plastic surgery appropriate? Huge eyes are great, but what’s the use when you can’t really see what you’re doing?