Perfect except for…
your teeth. As fans of Kpop we are all familiar with the industry’s preoccupation with beauty and the pursuit of ‘perfection.’ It’s commonplace in South Korea for parents to give their child the gift of plastic surgery for graduation. In fact, South Korea ranks #1 as the nation with the highest invasive plastic surgery rate per capita. So why has some of the biggest stars in Korean entertainment bypassed what is probably the most acceptable way to improve your appearance and without plastic surgery- fixing your teeth.
Braces are no longer the metallic horror of yesteryear- now they’re a normal rite of passage for most adolescents in developed countries. There are also a variety of styles of braces for patients to choose from that can cater to the person’s needs or wants- the traditional wire braces, clear braces, lingual braces (braces fixed to the back of the teeth), and clear removable liners like Invisalign. There’s a braces and method of treatment to fit anyone’s orthodontic needs. With technology being as advanced as it is, orthodontists can work wonders for their patients’ smile as long as the price is right.
So why haven’t stars like Yoon Eun-hye, Jung Yong-hwa, and Kim Soo-ro to name a few, fixed their teeth? Yoon Eun-hye is arguably one of the ROK’s most beautiful women, known for her perfect face, voluptuous body, and her snaggletooth (snaggleteeth?). If you do an image search for Eun-hye you’ll find tons of pics of her and about 90% of them will be of her with her mouth closed or slightly open, so while her snaggletooth hasn’t stopped her popularity it also isn’t really accepted as part of her beauty. In fact if you search for images of any of these orthodontically challenged stars, you’ll find that most of their pictures are sans the huge smile with snaggleteeth exposed.
Eun-hye debuted in 1999 at the age of 15 with Baby V.O.X., and while getting braces might be too expensive for your average South Korean family to afford, it usually wouldn’t be for your entertainment company. Your average Korean entertainment company has their own plastic surgeons and orthodontists on speed dial, I’m sure. Granted, Yoon Eun-hye’s debut was over 10 years ago and Kpop back then wasn’t what it is now and the technology for braces a decade ago might not have been as advanced and was still expensive, so maybe it wasn’t a commonplace procedure for a company back then. As Eun-hye’s popularity grew after appearing in Goong and the Coffee Prince, I guess the thought was why fix what isn’t broken? Her crooked teeth didn’t hamper her career and to this day she remains one of the ROK’s most photographed women in photo spreads and CFs- all with her teeth mostly hidden behind her pouty lips.
Yoon Eun-hye also might not have fixed her teeth due to her title as a ‘natural’ beauty. Because although plastic surgery in South Korea is accepted as a normal rite of passage and at times even necessary to succeed there, being a natural beauty, one who hasn’t had to have any plastic surgery or cosmetic enhancements, is a cut above the rest (pun intended). Although fixing your teeth is cosmetic in nature (most of the time), I wouldn’t consider someone who got braces (or any other orthodontic procedure to fix crooked teeth) as being unnatural or plastic.
Another reason why entertainers that have already debuted don’t fix their grills can be seen in the recent ‘scandal’ that the Brown Eyed Girls’ Miryo was involved in. With her new sleeker and slimmer physique and face for their latest debut, netizens were accusing Miryo of having Orthognathic surgery. Orthognathic surgery is a procedure to correct conditions of the jaw and face relating to facial structure. The surgery is usually used to correct disorders like sleep apnea, TMJ disorder, or dental problems that are beyond the abilities of braces to fix. The term Orthognathic surgery was the #1 beauty search term in South Korea for 2010, why? Because it is also the procedure used by those looking to change their facial structure to get a smaller or oval V-line face. Miryo refuted the rumors and said that the changes seen to her face/jaw structure were due to braces and her recent weight loss, but the suspicions remain.
Believe me, I do think perfection is overrated. It’s imperfections and one’s unique qualities that makes someone stand out among the rest. If we were all supposed to look alike in the great scheme of things, I’m sure we would have, but we don’t. And while I wouldn’t criticize someone who got plastic surgery to correct a feature that made them feel insecure or unhappy about their looks, there should be limits which doesn’t seem to happen much in South Korea. But, fixing your teeth doesn’t seem like an unreasonable pursuit like some other plastic surgery procedures are, so it does make me wonder why some celebrities choose not to fix their teeth. Why do you think these stars have chosen to not fix their teeth and instead rock the snaggletooth? Do you think it lessons their appeal in any way or does it help them individualize themselves? I leave you with this quote to ponder by English Naturalist John Ray:
Beauty is power; a smile is its sword.