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Plastic Surgery in Korea

December 12, 2013


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Back to serious topics for TL;DRs. Woohoo! This one is a subject that we’ve avoided for a long time, but I think we had enough to say about the subject now so that we could make a video about it, even though, we know, it’s impossible to talk about everything at once. Hopefully we could talk about it more here and in the comments :D

A few things we didn’t talk about in the video:

Though we’re more understanding about plastic surgery, and the blunt practicality of plastic surgery here in Seoul, we’re starting to wonder where we would draw the line, if we would draw one at all. It feels as if plastic surgery is a bit TOO accepted here, you know? Here’s something that surprised us and still surprises us to this day: plastic surgery is often given as gifts for good grades in school. Aced that exam? Here’s some double eyelid surgery for you! Passed the top of your class? You deserve a jaw shaving! While, yes, we know that getting these surgeries will give people in Korea better opportunities in the work force, it just feels like it’s too early to give to students. Too early! The idea iss being planted in them from a young age that specific looks are unacceptable, and something about it just reeks of innocence being lost. No? Am I romanticizing things a bit?

This is why we were a bit upset at Minzy getting a nose job. Don’t get us wrong: she has all the right to do whatever she wants to her body, and we’re not trying to deprive her of that right. We just don’t like how it all went down. YG denied that she had surgery at first, and said something along the lines of “oh noez she didn’t get surgery she just got older and byutifuller!” Minzy afterwards contradicted that and said that, yes, she got a nose job, but only because she suffers from rhinitis or something.

Now, I don’t know what her real motives are. I feel like the rhinitis excuse is BS. I googled if rhinoplasty will affect rhinitis, and online doctors said that it won’t, but it’s the freaking internet so it could be all lies. Hell, I’m a certifieded doctor as well! Believe me! Point is, I don’t believe her reason, and I feel like maybe other people don’t believe it as well. But that’s not what irks me. We just really thought that Minzy looked great before. Absolutely freaking adorable! There wasn’t anything wrong with her nose at all. She looked really lovely, and it felt like, for once, here was a major idol that embraced how she looked and didn’t cave into the pressure to change her appearance. Here was someone who could be a positive role model for high school girls with image issues. But…not anymore. Her nose looks nothing like what it was before, and she got it changed because she didn’t like the way it looked, which is telling other people with similar noses that theirs don’t look good, either. Again, Minzy has all the right in the world to do what she pleases with her body, and hers isn’t the job to be Korea’s self-esteem compass; I just don’t really like the circumstances around the surgery nor the message this instance sends.

Another thing we wanted to talk about in this post is getting plastic surgery in Korea as a foreigner. We’ve heard a few terrible things which have, in turn, scared the bajesus out of us. Namely, how do you, as a foreigner, place your trust in a surgeon? How do you prevent doctor swapping when you’re unconscious, for example? For those of you who don’t know, Doctor Swapping is the instance in which you would pay for surgery from, say, a great doctor with a fantastic reputation, but as soon as you’re unconscious they put in a different, lesser qualified doctor. Or what about companies that offer translation services for you as a medical tourist, and they recommend good clinics for you, but that’s at times only because they have a relationship with that clinic that’ll charge you double what they normally charge, for which the translator will get a cut of that cheque. Even in the forums that you read online, people are hired to post comments and give positive reviews. Fabricated online sentiments aren’t uncommon here.
Plastic surgery is big business in South Korea, and lots of money exchanges hands, and – unfortunately – business ethics when dealing with foreigners aren’t really the highest priority.

I don’t know. Those are some things to keep in mind, I guess. If you’re more interested in the topic, a friend of ours runs a good site on Plastic Surgery in Korea. He knows a lot more about the subject than we do, and has a bunch of good articles there if you want to look into it more.

Yeah! That’s it for this week’s serious TL;DR topic. Let us know what you think in the comment section below. We know this is a sensitive issue, and we really hope we didn’t offend too many people! Ah! Otherwise, if you like TL;DRs like this, make sure you click on this fancy pants button here. It’ll cure your rhinitis! I’m a doctor and I know!



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Plastic Surgery in Korea


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  1. Hi, I was just wondering which clinic you guys visited to get your moles removed as I’ve been thinking of mine getting removed too. Cheers!

    6 months ago
  2. I was just wondering which clinic you guys went to remove your moles as mine is becoming raised.

    7 months ago
  3. I am Korean, and what I am worried about plastic surgery in Korea is that the average age of recipients is too low. Teenage girls are very sensitive about looks, I believe they have rather poor judgement on what looks good and what looks bad. They are easily affected by KPOP idols and media, haven’t found their own style yet, and very superficial due to immaturity I guess. Surgeons and clinics are taking advantage of this and targeting these vulnerable young girls.

    I had my eye lid surgery when I was 20 (in Korean age, so that’s right after graduation of high school) and I absolutely regret this. It’s similar feeling to when you look back your old photos and feel embarrassed about your fashion style or hair. What seemed pretty/or cool before is just too tacky and uncool. That’s what I feel about my eye shape. It’s not ugly, I don’t feel horrible about this look but I do think my original eye shape (which is typical ‘Asian eye’) would’ve been so much better. I can’t undo it, such a shame.

    I do think some plastic procedures are in fact positive, such as skin procedures, teeth jobs, or hair treatments. Cause with these jobs it only gets better – smoother skin, even teeth, thicker hair.. And it’s great to be able to easily find these clinics. But the procedures that really changes your.. shape could be regretful. I wish young girls think about this before they do anything.

    1 year ago
  4. Bel

    Now, whenever I see the vline jaw or the doll like eyes in kdramas and kpop, it makes me pretty uncomfortable.

    1 year ago
  5. Uh guys, plastic surgery actually means the same thing here. No really, I’m serious! I know this video is a few months old and you may never see this, but I really wanted to mention this because I feel like it’s a shame to leave you uninformed about it.
    Think about the term “brain plasticity” what does that mean? It’s synonymous with brain malleability, and that’s not a mistake. In fact the whole reason why ‘plastic’ the substance was called plastic is *because* it’s so incredibly malleable. It gained the confrontation of ‘fake’ and all those other things long after with the rise in popularity of the substance named for it’s moldable nature.
    However plastic surgery was a term coined before plastic became popular, and the popularity and subsequent ascription of all those negative connotations to ‘plastic’ is actually fluke that had side effects for ‘plastic’ surgery.
    So there you go, in fact our surgery initially was named in equivalence to ‘morph surgery’, and in theory, if we were being careful and specific with our understanding of language, still is.

    1 year ago
  6. I just remembered what video I watched that I wanted to share. Although it is a dove commercial, it still sends a good message.


    2 years ago
  7. you’re Sami? that’s so cool!

    2 years ago
  8. THIS i can relate to.

    2 years ago
  9. This is what they call pretty (even if you have done PS)

    2 years ago
  10. unless you got one very good-looking relative,there is no chances of pretty kids

    2 years ago
  11. Ideal beauty standards are ridiculous to ang mohs like EYK

    For the Nose: it must be sharp and pointed
    Eyes: Almond shaped and double eyelids
    Skin:white (or glow in the dark white)
    Body:fuck this shit lol just be as skinny as a pair of chopsticks

    2 years ago
  12. HAd to pause and laugh..essence releaser? Really Simon? BWAHAHAHA! I find my favorite looking female celebrities are the ones with unusual faces. Hyorin from Sistar, Ha Ji-won, Han Groo. They’re not beautiful in the typical manner and have very different features from the ideal. But to compensate, they also have incredible bodies. Those faces that are all the same are scary and a little confusing when you’re learning names for your favorite groups…

    2 years ago

    ok. so when you are born in Korea you are considered 1 year already.

    including the NEW YEARS and BIRTHDAYS, I think it is +2 years per year.

    so like if a child were born they are already 1 year. on 1990

    +1 on a birthday(the next year)=2 years old 1991

    +1 on a new years=3years old 1993

    (!warning!:all of what I am saying is a educated guess)

    EX:T.O.P: he is actually 26 years old in western time(in 2013), but the plus one from the day he was born gave him the age of 27 in Korea. but right now on new years he turns 28 because of the +1 from his day or birth and +1 from new years.

    oh I will use Taeyang as a example too

    ok so he is now 27 years one year younger then TOP(28)

    his birthday passed so you -1 year(26)

    and in western time, thanks to the Korean way. ”when a baby is born they are already one year old ”so you -1 from the s]age again(26-1)which =25

    and see how Taeyang and TOPs ages connect made with the same theory

    Taeyang will always stay younger then TOP will

    TAEYANG and TOP ages in Korea:27 and 28

    TAEYANG and TOP ages in the western part:25 and 26

    see how they are only 1 year apart from each other by subtracting the +one year form birth and the +1 year from new years


    high five me!

    2 years ago
  14. This video was very informative, but I don’t like the way you guys expressed your disapproval of plastic surgery.
    You say that, when two people who have both gotten plastic surgery have a child, he/she would be a “swamp donkey.” But then you proceed to say that he/she would probably get plastic surgery in the future, “continuing this awful life-cycle.”
    So, if he/she stays natural, he/she gets insulted for his/her appearance.
    If he/she gets plastic surgery, he/she is criticized for it.
    Unless you’re born attractive, there’s no way you can really win.
    I’m not saying plastic surgery is a good thing, but a society that doesn’t reprimand less attractive people for trying to improve their appearance through surgery (in this case, South Korea) sounds a lot better to me than a society that claims to accept all kinds of people despite their appearance, but dislikes people who are born ugly, either because they’re unattractive (having chosen not to have surgery) or fake (having chosen to have surgery).
    It seems really hypocritical and unfair, especially since most other aspects of western culture usually try to promote fairness.

    2 years ago
  15. Taken from Wikipedia: “Plastic surgery is a medical specialty concerned with the “correction” or restoration of form and function. Though cosmetic or aesthetic surgery is the best-known kind of plastic surgery, most plastic surgery is not cosmetic;[2] plastic surgery includes many types of reconstructive surgery, hand surgery, microsurgery, and the treatment of burns.”

    And I believe they mentioned that in Korea the word ‘plastic’ is not used in the word for those surgeries. It has nothing to do with ‘ plastic’. In fact you could get a skin graft for a burn or had a finger reattached and technically that is ‘ plastic surgery.’. Some ‘Plastic Surgeons deal with serious issues like cleft palates, burns, deformed limbs, skin deformities and a whole set of other things. So yes, when your grandmother got her eyes fixed, she technically had ‘plastic surgery’. It could have been categorized as ‘cosmetic/aesthetic’ or a ‘reconstructive’ plastic surgery.

    2 years ago
  16. What are you thoughts and feelings on SHINee’s Jonghyun openly supporting the LGTB movement how is korea reacting do you think changes are starting in korea concerning LGTB? do you think he will be getting a lot of back lash?

    2 years ago
  17. What kind of things will kill you in Korea? In the US there are rattlesnakes, brown recluse spiders, crocodiles and alligators, tornadoes, hurricanes, dust storms and blizzards. What do you have to be wary of there?

    2 years ago
  18. I dunno. I can understand why people do it, if you’re unhappy with the way you look and want to change it then why not? People go on diets, have braces fitted, wear make up for the same reasons.
    But it’s the whole ‘clone-y’ look that frightens me a bit.
    Like in that photo of the prospective Miss Korea’s they all have almost identical eye shapes, nose shapes and face shapes. There’s no distinct features that makes any of them stand out.
    I don’t think beauty should be defined by one look. Not gonna lie, I find that a bit creepy.

    2 years ago
  19. Yes indeed. Only about 60% of newly graduate college student find full time jobs within 6 months of graduation. And that stat does not include people who are going to graduate school, entering military, study abroad, participate in volunteer activity etc etc Fresh graduate who find reasonably acceptable position, never mind dream job, is thought to be in single digit.

    2 years ago
  20. You pointed out some things that I didn’t know about plastic surgery in Korea. Namely the word/meaning used for it in Korea. That does explain maybe a little on how there’s not such a high stigma of it there. But I still gotta say I don’t agree with it unless it’s for health issues. I had a friend who looked into getting a breast reduction because of back problems. If she had the money to pay for it, she totally would have had it done.

    The things that ticked me off about the Minzy nose surgery ordeal is the way her mom told her to get it done. The articles I read in which Minzy explained the reason for the surgery is she wasn’t really all that keen on getting it done. But then her mom said she needed to get it done so she’d be more pretty. To hear that from your own mother that you aren’t pretty enough?! Ugh…I’m just disgusted. I’ve had to hear the same kind of stuff from my mom and used to feel like crap about myself. I also think Minzy looked just fine before. Now she looks weird. This is my personal opinion here, but I think she looks worse now than she did before.

    But I feel that way about a lot of these Kpop stars who get plastic surgery. You see the before and after pictures and I’m just like, no wonder something looked off about them. The eye thing really creeps me out. The big, widened eyes are so unhuman it’s spooky to me. I personally like the monolid. On some Korean artists who have this I think it’s quite sexy and appealing actually.

    Image is such a huge issue in Korea and so people run to surgery to help it. But what really needs worked on is their self-esteem about themselves. That’s my personal opinion. I mean I may not be the greatest looking; I think I’m quite the plain Jane actually. Several people have told me I’m ugly. It took a lot of time to overcome that. But now I’m better for it. I’m happy about my not-so-great features. I’m me and if someone has a problem with it then that’s their problem not mine. The only thing physically I don’t like about myself right now is that I’m overweight. Which I brought on myself by keeping unhealthy habits. Now I work out everyday and am eating better. So what I did to myself I’m fixing. Everything about the way God made me is perfect just as is.

    2 years ago
  21. Martina, about the monolid being on Asians, it’s only some that have it. From what I know, lots of it are on Koreans (?) but I’m not too sure. I’m Chinese and I have double eyelids, and so do my friends and family. My family was shocked when I told them about nearly all Koreans having monolids, because in China, lots of people have natural double eyelids. I’m not too sure about Koreans though, since I don’t know many Koreans in real life :

    2 years ago
  22. Just want to second what you said about stigmas being different in different countries.
    Martina was offended because plastic surgery has a negative stigma in her country (Canada), but they dude who offered the nose job wasn’t trying to offend her, because plastic surgery doesn’t have that stigma in his country (South Korea).
    In that case, is:
    1) Martina being too uptight and butthurt by being offended by something that wasn’t meant to be offensive
    2) The dude being offensive and tactless by mentioning something that could possibly be offensive to others?

    I’ve always wondered this, because I’ve moved around a lot of countries, and found that a term or reference that is completely harmless in one country can make people go ballistic in others. It’s only after I get told off by someone from some other country, that I realise it had a negative connotation. For example, I grew up using the term ‘Jap’ as just a shorter version of ‘Japanese’. In Australia, it’s really common and has no stigma attached, as far as I’m aware of. We used in in Japanese class all the time, heck even the Japanese kids used it. But then some American Japanese person got offended, which shocked me (apparently it was a derogatory term used in the US in WWII). I’ve avoided using it around Americans since.
    Other common examples includes asking people about their age and weight and income. Eg. Thai people ask for your age almost right after asking for your name, so they can know how to address you. But people in Australia often find that too personal or invasive or something?

    In that light, I just have one request; could people perhaps refrain from judging and condemning people from other countries, when they happen to do/say something offensive? Because chances are they were not aware of the negative stigma that it has in other cultures. You can’t help feeling offended, because that could just be a reflex emotional reaction, but instead of unleashing your wrath on the perpetrator, you could just gently explain how it could be offensive, so that they can be more careful around people from that culture in the future. Because if people tend to blow up all the time, I’d end up trying to avoid them completely.

    2 years ago
    • Well, I did mention that being offended, or becoming angry, is an emotion; and it’s not really something that we can control. What we can control, though, is how we express that feeling; and ideally we do it in a way that will be helpful for both sides.
      I just personally think that flipping out in anger doesn’t usually have the best results. It’s a bit like disciplining a child; the first time they do something wrong, you explain why it’s wrong. The second, or third time, you can be more expressive, because the kid is doing it in spite of knowing that it’s wrong.
      The problem with foreigners being offensive is that people skip the whole explaining step, and go straight to being angry. Not that helpful, imo.

      2 years ago
    • I agree.
      ‘Don’t take offence unless offence was intended.’ that’s my personal ethos on this ^^

      2 years ago
  23. Okay, I can’t get it out of my head – does anyone remember the documentary made about the Korean version of beauty a year or so ago? I’m trying to remember what it was called. It had an American girl who enrolled in high school in Korea after she had graduated Stateside so she could really get into the thought process of Korean girls. It had tons of interviews with school girls who both had and wanted to have plastic surgery.

    Does anyone know the name? Or has anyone seen it?

    2 years ago
  24. The eye-lid fold is called the epicantic fold.

    2 years ago
  25. Okay I go a question and I hope someone can answer it.
    From what I heard from friends is that if you’re still young (highschool student) you aren’t aloud to do specific thinks to your appearance (like dying your hair)
    I was planning on going to Korea as an exchange student so was worried on how they would judge me or if the hey would even let ne sincerely I dyed my hair purple and more.
    Since you both used to be teachers, how are the rules about physical appearance and do they also count for foreigners?
    I hope you can answer my question! It doesn’t even have to be in a video but just an answer is alright.

    2 years ago
  26. One thing that really bothers me about plastic surgery, I do believe everyone has the right to do what they want with their body and I’m not opposed to plastic surgery, but wouldn’t you want to know what your husband or wife looked like without the surgery? I mean, I keep seeing the term “suitable” used to describe how Koreans pick a husband and wife. Well are you “suitable” looking enough? Is my friend “suitable” enough to have her sogaeting with my guy friend? Like really? The base appearance is all that matters? That’s why that article about the guy suing his wife blew my mind. Don’t deny it, it’s obvious that she’s had at least a few surgeries. How in the world did he NOT ask to see what she looked like before? Maybe it’s just me, but I wouldn’t want a guy who is completely reformed by surgery.. Maybe it’s the western in me, but I believe natural (unless for medical reasons) is always best.

    2 years ago
  27. You were talking about what if two “hot” people got together and had not-so-hot children? There was a story going around the internet about a man divorcing his wife because she hadn’t told him about her plastic surgery and then bore unattractive children. Thankfully it turned out to be a hoax, but it did create this meme.


    2 years ago
  28. I’m gonna push the boat out here and say I actually applaud Minzy for getting it done – assuming it was her own choice. It’s not her responsibility to make other people feel good about themselves. I know people seem sad that she did it, and personally I also think she looked better before, but heck – if SHE wasn’t happy with it then I think she’s right for changing it. She’s still Minzy, still has an incredible voice, still an amazing dancer, still the same personality. I just don’t understand why people seem to take the PC version of things when PS is being discussed – leave people alone and let them do what they want, it’s not harming anyone~

    2 years ago
  29. Hey Simon and Martina, I think you using the MISS KOREA candidates as the video’s image is not a good idea, because beauty pageants around the world are full of fixed up women. Whether you’re in Brazil, U.S. Canada, or Europe, a lot of pageant contestants got something tweaked (eyes, brows, boos, whatever it is)

    2 years ago
  30. With so many people focused on an ideal look, does it ever seem like that might actually help the people who choose not to have anything done? Like you have so many Barbie and Ken dolls that they just give this “meh” feeling and then you see someone normal and they really stand out. Do the “snowflakes” get more attention sometimes because of this? Or not really at all and you might as well get some work done?

    2 years ago
  31. I’m quite sad over Minzy’s PS as well. People say that’s it’s her body and her choice.. well yes but as someone who admired her unique looks, she just looks different like now and I have hard time to adapt to it ^^; I think she had really adorable nose before and now it’s quite regular one.

    I’m quite anti-PS too. I guess one of reason is that I like unique facial features and I tend to like on looks which are considered ugly in Korea. So when idols get a PS they kinda change the features that I liked most, sigh. Also I don’t think it’s good to be so appearance oriented, it just increases pressures to look “perfect” for everyone and like you can’t be happy with your own looks.

    2 years ago
  32. It really saddens me just much stress they put on physical appearance.
    In a society like that, how could you trust (assuming you’d had surgery) that the people in your life truly loved you for you?

    2 years ago
  33. About Minzy, from what I gathered, she actually said that she just took the opportunity to get plastic surgery on her nose at the same time as her rhinitis surgery. So I don’t think she’s using the rhinitis as a coverup, but rather admitting that she got it done at the same time. That said, I agree with you that it’s her choice to do whatever with her nose and I don’t judge, but I think there was absolutely no need for her to change her nose. She was beautiful before as well.

    2 years ago
  34. I AM GLAD THAT YOU FINALLY DID THIS TOPIC! in regards to minji’s ps, i understand what you are saying and your opinion. for me, i am just proud of her for ADMITTING to getting p.s. in the first place. many kpop idols deny it or dont say anything (park bom). i think she say part of reason for rhinitis and part of it was to look more pretty.

    2 years ago
  35. I wanna see Simon stick his thumb up his nose!

    2 years ago
  36. very interesting TL;DR! i think that if i was going to have plastic surgery, i would definitely go to korea! I live in Japan and actually a lot of people here do go to go Korea for plastic surgery! plus, medicine is so terrible in Japan, i’d honestly be scared to get anything done here…

    i do think it’s sad though, the pushing of young girls to get surgery, and the fact that it’s even related to getting a job… it really shouldn’t, and that’s really stupid… (although in Japan, you also have to attatch a photo to your resume!)

    on a side note though, have you guys ever read the books “Uglies” and “Pretties”? when i see the pictures of all those korean girls who look like dolls with big giant eyes, i imagine that’s what Pretties look like!! XD

    2 years ago
  37. I think it’s unfair that when applying for things I often have to include aptitude test scores or take a personality test but can’t send a picture. We all have different strengths.

    2 years ago
  38. Plastic surgery is totally unfair! It takes away a god-given advantage from handsome people. Handsome people can’t go out and get a little “IQ reformation surgery” if they feel insecure about their intellect. Handsome people rights! Keep ugly people ugly! #kidding

    2 years ago
  39. That’s what I got from the statement she made as well.

    2 years ago

    ahem anyways.

    I’m a korean born and raised in the US and I abhor this whole plastic surgery obsession. The requirement for a picture on resumes and the rewards thing for students makes me sick.

    2 years ago