Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Right and Wrong Questions to Ask About Plastic Surgery in Korea

Dear Korean,

I read about the incredibly high percentage of young girls going for a plastic surgery. I asked to my friends, and they told me in Korea, beauty means looking western for women. This is quite funny because I personally think, and as me many people here, that Asian women are really beautiful and have that mysterious look we find so appealing. So the question is: do they know they don’t actually need that surgery to look better, do they know western people appreciate Asian beauty? They could save that money away for more important things, like traveling for example, or studying, or whatever.

Giorgio


You know the Korean is not the one to mince words, so here it is: this is a dumb question. But Giorgio is hardly alone in asking this kind of dumb question about Korea's high rate of plastic surgery. "Plastic surgery" in Korea, in a sense, became another kind of "dog meat"--that is, a quick-and-dirty topic for the media to do a hey-look-at-these-weird-Asian-people story. The coverage is dumb, shallow and sensationalized, and so are the reactions to the coverage, like the one coming from Giorgio here.

Part of the reason for the stupidity of the commentary about Korea's plastic surgery is plastic surgery seems like such an easy issue. People going under the knife to change the way they look--seems easy enough to solve that. The well-meaning people would lament, "If only Korean women believed in themselves!" with the implication that, if only the silly Korean people listened to them, the world would be a better place.

Well, no. Take your good intentions and continue paving that road to hell, because few things are more infuriating than well-meaning ignorance. Such ignorance belongs to the same species as the well-intended advice to the poor that they should simply try a little harder. It diminishes the complex challenges that the people embroiled in the issue face.

What makes Korea's plastic surgery issue so tricky? Consider the following questions:

For all the gasping expanded on plastic surgery, few people can seem to articulate their position on the most fundamental question regarding plastic surgery: what, if anything, is wrong with it?

Is it wrong to undergo bodily modification? LASIK surgery is far more invasive than the most common form of plastic surgery in Korea, the epicanthic fold surgery (commonly known as the "double eyelid" surgery.) Yet the numerous advertisements about LASIK surgery does not seem to raise the same questions as the same for plastic surgery. Why is that?

Is it because plastic surgery does not appear to be "necessary," or necessary only to the extent that we care about the way we look? But we do "unnecessary" things every day for the sake of looks. We wash our faces, comb our hair, (some of us) put on makeup and dress in stylish clothing. Or is it that there is a line between putting on clothes and receiving a surgery that alters our body? But orthodontics alters our body as dramatically as any plastic surgery. Solely for the sake of looks, orthodontists pull out perfectly good teeth, cut off flesh and push the whole jaw into a direction that is not meant to go. So why is there no sensationalist article about the world's addiction to braces?

Is it because when it comes to Korea, the looks at which plastic surgery aims appear foreign and imposed? First of all, it is not true that Koreans aspire to look like a Westerner; oval face and pale skin have been a part of Korea's beauty standard for centuries. It is more accurate to say that Korea's evolving standard of beauty involves certain Western elements, such as rounder eyes. Very well, one may concede that Korea's beauty standard has elements that are not Korean. But so what? Everything in Korea has elements that are not Korean. Overwhelming majority of Koreans wear traditional Korean garb only on special occasions. Restaurants selling non-Korean foods are plenty, and Koreans visit them all the time. Koreans liberally borrow non-Korean concepts (e.g. democracy) to run their society, and use non-Korean words to explain those concepts. This is the consequence of living in a world in which the West has won for the last several centuries. Why not the sensationalist articles about the fact that Korean businessmen wear suits, just like their Western counterparts? Why no outpour of sympathy along the lines of, "If only Koreans knew how beautiful hanbok was!"

Is it because the high rate of plastic surgery reveals something peculiar about Korea? But what is that something, exactly? That Koreans care about looks? (But people who get orthodontic procedures don't?) That Korean women are subject to undue pressure from society? (Because television shows and advertisement boards elsewhere in the world feature regular-weight women with no makeup?) That Koreans' sense of beauty is too uniform? (Because elsewhere in the world, there is never any attempt to make regular-weight woman appear slimmer, or a darker-skinned woman appear lighter, on magazine covers?)

Let me be clear: I do not intend to imply an answer to these questions. (Frankly, I cannot even fully answer them.) Nor are these questions meant to be a series of reflexive tu quoque. There may be a real difference between plastic surgery and makeup. There may be a real difference between plastic surgery on one hand, and LASIK surgery and orthodontics on the other. There may be a real reason such that incorporation of Western elements in Korea's standard of beauty is so much more unacceptable and so much more offensive than the incorporation of Western elements in Korea's governing system. There may be actual insight about Korea to be gained from this phenomenon that is significantly different from the insight to be gained from what we are seeing elsewhere in the modern world. The point of listing those questions is: the answers to these questions are not obvious, and require a serious intellectual engagement to explain.

A helpful rule of thumb in trying to explore this issue: if you find yourself moving toward a perspective that does not treat Koreans--especially Korean women--as people who make autonomous decisions in the face of certain factual situations, stop and start over. If you find yourself cobbling together the few facts that you know about Korea to figure this out ("Isn't K-pop Korean? Of course they must be connected!"), stop thinking and start reading more about Korea. If you cannot recognize the parallels between Korea's plastic surgery and other bodily modifications common in the place you live, even just for the sake of discerning the starting point from which those two things part company, stop thinking about Korea and develop more self-awareness about your own society first.

In other words, stop asking questions like Giorgio, and don't write articles like this. Stop the stupid, because you can do better.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.

66 comments:

  1. Well said. The trouble with so much comment by Westerners on Korea is that they are so eager to analyze Korean culture without stopping to realise that their analysis is based on unquestioned assumptions of their own culture, which they accept as axiomatic truths, such as "There is a self-evident distinction between acceptable and extreme forms of changing your appearance."

    I suspect that Korea's high rate of plastic surgery does reveal something about Korean society, however; specifically its hyper-competitiveness. Thoughts?

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    1. Your question reveals that waegukin(s) and expats are overly obsessed with plastic surgery in Korea. Why is that? It's just one of those several narrow waegukin and expat circlejerk topics they obsess over and over again including topics and subject like prostitution and sex or getting laid in Korea, penis or peehole sizes, and being oppressed and facing "reverse racism" in Korea.

      Besides, where are you getting there's a high rate of plastic surgery in Korea, according to who? and compared to which countries? Your question also ignores medical tourism in Korea.

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    2. Respectfully, I think my comment only reveals that I was replying to a blog post on the topic of plastic surgery in Korea.

      Expats in Korea, as with any group, have a diversity of outlooks and opinions on things. I am however confident in saying that "peehole sizes" are not a big topic of conversation for anyone.

      "Besides, where are you getting there's a high rate of plastic surgery in Korea, according to who?" Is this in doubt? The Korean acknowledged it in the second sentence of the post. "But Giorgio is hardly alone in asking this kind of dumb question about Korea's high rate of plastic surgery."

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    3. The main correlation has to do with the economic development of middle class Koreans. Prior to the emergence of Korea the highest rates of PS were in Japan and HK, not incidentally because they were the most developed Asian nations. As China develops you'll see it take the throne.

      To your point, Koreans themselves do discuss PS in the context of the hyper-competitiveness of Korea but Koreans attribute everything to hyper-competitiveness. You have to learn to filter out the crap Koreans say from the substance. IMO PS reveals something about a society but it really has to do with WHICH PROCEDURES they undergo. For example Koreans are overwhelmingly about eye surgery (which is less invasive than getting teeth pulled) but Americans are all about boob jobs. Jews are about nose jobs. IMO the procedures themselves, not the incidence does to some degree belie what they are insecure about.

      As to Korean and didja's posts the POINT is to be able to ask the right questions. The real issue isn't PS. In truth body modification whether it's tattoos, piercings, cosmetic dental work. cosmetic eye surgery, w/e is a basic human impulse throughout history. And as with all human impulses, there are dumb people who have the corresponding impulse to moralize about what other ppl do with their bodies. Even tattoos were strongly stigmatized in the US not too long ago. Just about every society in history either has a TRADITION of body modification (tattooing, foot binding, ear elongating, cranium shaping w/e) or it has specific PROHIBITIONS against the very thing (Jews, Chinese). Old story. Not interesting

      What's fascinating is what Korean has touched on. The IDEA of surgery as political currency is really interesting. The original roots of the criticism of Korean PS emerged post-hallyu from ultra right Neo Fascist websites in Japan but the trope was then embraced by the Chinese propagandists of the CCP in conjunction with the PRC NW History Project for completely different purpose. In recent years it's been again co-opted (paradoxically) by both Right Wing bigots in the USA and Left leaning Feminist bloggers for their own (and divergent) agendas. The fixation with demonizing and body shaming Korean women is something that goes beyond talking about Korea but demonstrates how Asian nations themselves jostle politically and socially, and how the West co-opts narrative to grind axes against Asians and Asian nations.

      The Western view for example, is vested in a heavy handed sort of post-Colonial paternalism. "They want to be white!" is a irresistible narrative to many Americans at a time when we seem to be "losing" to the Yellow Hordes. But in truth this trope isn't only completely foreign to the motivations of the Korean women themselves but wouldn't have occurred to Japanese or Chinese nationalists who see PS as a political knife to wield against their "competitor" in the hysterical battle that rages in their minds for cultural and social supremacy in Asia. For example photoshopped pictures of Korean beauty contestants created for the purpose of "hey don't believe dirty Koreans their women are not more beautiful than ours!" from a Japanese source will mutate in the hands of Jezebelle and become "wow Asians really really hate themselves and want to look white." Which of course to many readers of Jezebelle codifies paternalism and resentment toward ALL Asian Societies: Korean, Chinese Japanese... and hardens some noobs' convictions that Asia needs saving from itself. Hardly the effect that the original bigots in Japan had in mind.

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    4. Thanks for the considered reply. TK's point, as I understood it, was not that plastic surgery in Korea should not be questioned, but rather that it should not be discussed from a point of view that assumes one's own cultural values to be "normal", or, even worse, an ideal to which other cultures aspire to. We're agreed on that. It's a great point and one that can be extended to a lot of the English language commentary on Korean culture, not just plastic surgery. Which was the first point I made in my comment.

      But the logical followup is to then, hopefully, start asking the RIGHT sorts of questions. It's a cultural phenomenon and it's perfectly valid to explore it. TK concedes it's a complex issue, which he himself can't fully answer. Nor can I. My suggestion that it might have something to do with the hyper-competitiveness of Korean society, which I think was phrased pretty tentatively, was just an attempt to start asking the right sort of question. Perhaps it is a bad question, and I am unwittingly still looking at it from the perspective of my own culture. It's probably impossible to divorce oneself from one's own culture completely; even TK has trouble doing it sometimes. But if I am doing that, it's not immediately obvious to me how I am, and you need a better argument than didja's offensive and reflexive dismissal. Your own arguments are also an interesting attempt to explore the issue in a broader context and I don't disagree with anything you wrote. Your point about the rising middle class is certainly interesting; although it does seem to still limit it to an East Asian phenomenon.

      Here's another tentative idea, which may or may not be valid. In order to avoid giving offense, I'll talk about it in the inverted form of the cultural taboos of the West. Both physical attractiveness and intelligence are largely innate qualities for which a person can take no credit; however they are both also capable of improvement through personal effort. In the West it's largely acceptable to both praise and criticize people's intelligence, both their innate intelligence and any effort or lack of effort they make to improve that intelligence. But making any sort of negative comment about a person's physical appearance, particularly to the person concerned, is extremely taboo. Whereas it seems to me in Korea that both are seen as praise- or criticism-worthy, and both are seen as things which one should strive to improve. Is one more logical than the other, or is it just a cultural difference? Does it have anything at all to do with the prevalence of plastic surgery in Korea?

      But to turn this post's argument into "This is not about plastic surgery in Korea, it's about Westerners' bad questions about plastic surgery in Korea, and we shouldn't be talking about plastic surgery in Korea at all" (which TK didn't argue in the post, but does seem to be arguing in the comments) is anti-intellectual crap. If you ask people to think more deeply and ask better questions, it's fine to then suggest that they still haven't thought deeply enough, but you can't just dismiss them and claim their attempts to ask and answer those questions are irrelevant.

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    5. To be clear, in the comments, I am asking people to focus on my original point. If folks want to explore the questions that I raised, they can feel free.

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  2. LASIK is done purely for functional reasons, and while there is a cosmetic element to orthodontia (perhaps even the foremost reason for it), it can be done for purely functional reasons as well (as in severe cases a person may be unable to eat or speak normally without it - http://www.maxillofacialcentre.com/en/orthodontics.htm ). I think there's a difference between these theoretically functional surgeries on one hand, and a purely cosmetic surgery on the other.

    Also, while we do sometime see people bemoan the quest over beauty in general, I think there's a difference between low risk makeup and clothes usage on one hand, and risking one's life via plastic surgery on the other hand.
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/wang-bei-the-tragic-face-of-chinas-craze-for-plastic-surgery-2143889.html
    http://asiasociety.org/blog/asia/death-wang-bei-and-chinas-risky-plastic-surgery-craze
    http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/10/13/3688213/betty-pino-popular-miami-dj-died.html

    Still, I feel that comments that are negative about plastic surgery in general (and likewise those negative about makeup et al) are almost exclusively aimed at women. (Thus the lack of angst against purely cosmetic orthodontia could possibly be explained by the fact it's probably done in equal measure to both genders, and the same would apply to male hair restoration surgery.) The questioner's question seems no different, involving broad generalisations of both Koreans but also women.

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    1. A lot of people get corrective eye procedures because they think they look uglier in glasses.

      I don't think your "theoretically functional" distinction has any relevance if people are clearly doing them for mostly cosmetic reasons.

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  3. I do agree that in every country, women are judged more harshly than men on their looks, so women feel pressure to conform to the beauty standards of their society. But I also think that the strength of this pressure varies from country to country and that it is interesting to correlate the strength of that pressure to other factors to try to explain why.
    Of course, it needs to be done in a fair and considered way, accounting for the culture-specific pressures that people feel (the water that the fish swim in and don't notice), and allowing for the fact that there's huge interpersonal variation. (Heck, there's even huge variation between, say, San Francisco and LA*.) Therefore, the analysis is difficult. Just because a difference is difficult to measure doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.

    Also, yes, women are rational people who make rational choices for how they spend their time and money. But what is "rational"- what people are rewarded for doing- is in large part shaped by culture. Is it "good" for a culture to set up its reward system so that it is worth it for women to risk anesthesia** and spend thousands of dollars to look prettier? For women to feel like they need to spend hours every day on hair and makeup to "succeed"? (For that matter, to torture young people for years by moving their teeth around?) Of course, there is always pressure to attract the opposite sex and have people like you, but clearly, culture shapes how strong that pressure is and whether physical attractiveness is a "nice to have" or a "must." It's important to acknowledge that the time and effort women spend on grooming and appearance entails an opportunity cost for them and to identify possible factors that could strengthen or weaken this pressure. That's the only way the people in a society can have an honest and informed debate about how they want their society to be.

    * This from anecdotal evidence garnered from living in both places as an unattractive woman.
    ** That's my dividing line. People can have very unusual reactions to anesthetics, and it's entirely possible for you to be anesthetized with someone for the first time, react poorly, and die.

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  4. I think the whole problem with "western look" boils down to the fact that there are some things that people worldwide find appealing- like regular facial features, big eyes, regular eyebrows- so people seeing that they are prevalent in other cultures automatically consider that they had to be "borrowed" instead of evolve on their own right.

    And about plastic surgery- I've done a little research among my Western and Eastern friends that may explain why Westerns may find it shocking. Everything roots in that misfortune "surgery" thing. Westerns usually associate it with as well... surgery with all implications- team of doctors, general anaesthesia, operation theatre, buckets of blood, long convalescence and finally totally new look. Among my fiends of Asia this it's more like as "double eyelid" surgery- minor changes done by one person, in local anaesthesia, after which you pay and leave on your own feet.

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  5. I can't help but suspect there is a certain -- perhaps unconscious -- element of smugness and self-congratulation in westerners who say Korean women want to look 'western'. Just because idealized beauty in Korea happens to include some bits that are also part of idealized beauty in western countries, that does not necessarily mean that Korean women want to look like westerners (and of course this applies to other Asian women as well, since cosmetic plastic surgery is popular everywhere in developed Asia; Korea just happens to be the highest consumer) -- do any of these self-appointed critics realize that cosmetic surgery techniques for Asian faces was largely pioneered by Japanese surgeons and popularized by Hong Kong stars? What girl anywhere in the world does not want big doe eyes, a cute nose, a delicate chin, etc. etc.? Westerners who automatically assume Korean/Asian women want to turn themselves into caucasians, get over yourselves. You could be just mentally masturbating.

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  6. While I mostly agree with TK, he could have been a tad easier on Giorgio. Even though the question (especially that "Asian women ... have that mysterious look we find so appealing" bit) seems to have the nasty whiff of Yellow Fever...

    A good place to check out for actual numbers is here: http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2013/01/daily-chart-22
    While the number of procedures per capita is the highest in Korea, it is actually not that much higher than other countries (looks like ~8% higher than Greece and ~30% higher than the US). Articles and viral blog posts hugely exaggerate the figures -- presumably due to sensationalism.

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  7. I'm going to weigh in as 10+ year Seoul resident who works as a medical tourism professional with many plastic surgery clinics in Seoul. There is a lot of what expats and very open minded Koreans call, "'Butt Hurt Gyopo-ness' in the logic of the Korean's response, which is not a surprise. Koreans who don't get emotionally charged when confronted with social criticism about "Woori Nara" are few and far between.

    There is nothing wrong with plastic surgery, but there is something seriously wrong to the extent that Koreans take it, and how relaxed and pressured they are to elect themselves for procedures that are high risk for the sake of fighting off traits that are essentially natural ethnic markers. The importance Korean's place on beauty as a measure of ones worth is a sad truth of social survival, especially in Seoul. This is a sentiment shared by many Koreans.

    I've seen girls come in for consultations who simply want to get plastic surgery because they believe it will get them a job at a Gangnam coffee shop.

    Moreover, the plastic surgery ad saturation here gets down right ridiculous and insidious, and they are everywhere and TV Shows like 'Let Me In' don't help either. This is my favorite face palm causing ad, which I usually see play before every film at Seoul theaters, even PG and family films: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwrVjzQ6h_I

    This takes a toll on the self-esteem of young women and especially little kids, I was once at a baseball game where a plastic surgery ad kept looping on the jumbo screen right before the national anthem. A little girl (around 12 years old) sitting next to me turned to her mom and said, "I want plastic surgery."

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    1. My response, essentially, is "study and think before you talk." That's butt hurt? What typical expat bitterness.

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    2. It's not so much bitterness than frustration in the tone and manner you used to in your posting because it's very familiar to what foreigners deal with often. You invite foreigners in the same way Korea invites them. "Welcome, enjoy and ask anything!" But when people find something odd, there's a knee jerk reaction to get defensive. I'm an American, everywhere I go in the world I get an ear full about how screwed up America has become. I listen as long as it's not hostile, and agree and disagree with some points. We even have American celebrities like John Stewart and Stephen Colbert ripping on the US all the time. In Korea, a majority of people have overzealous patriotism without questioning it, and if Korea had a Stewart and Colbert they probably would go to jail and be accused of being communists (Korea actually had a popular political satire podcast two years go, but the host was sent to jail for not saying nice things about Lee Myung Bak).

      Giorgio approached with a very valid question because as you pointed out, Korean plastic surgery has caught the international media's attention, and while a lot does get blown out of proportion to drive CTR it does not dismiss that there are underlying reasons why it's catching their attention and they are not positive. The more Koreans turn a blind eye to what they're putting out there and act like defenders of the nation's Kibun if a criticism arises, it's not going to get solve anything anytime soon.

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    3. Moreover, you can avoid a lot of annoying questions by changing your masthead to "No, seriously, ask away. The email is on the right, but study and think before you talk."

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    4. You invite foreigners in the same way Korea invites them. "Welcome, enjoy and ask anything!" But when people find something odd, there's a knee jerk reaction to get defensive.

      That's a lot of projection.

      if Korea had a Stewart and Colbert they probably would go to jail and be accused of being communists

      That's funny--you lived in Korea for 10+ years and missed the fact that you cannot spend 30 seconds on Korean Internet without hearing Koreans criticizing their own country.

      Giorgio approached with a very valid question

      No he didn't, and I already explained why it was not a valid question.

      The more Koreans turn a blind eye to what they're putting out there and act like defenders of the nation's Kibun if a criticism arises

      The only thing I defended is the act of thinking before talking. Wow, such an offensive concept.

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    5. @TheKorean - This person works as a medical tourism professional in plastic surgery clinics in Korea and you dismissed their points as if they were nothing. In fact, you only address the bit you took offence to in his first comment and then tarnished the whole thing as 'expat bitterness'. That is very poor. If you don't have time to respond properly, why write anything at all?

      Personally, I thought you also were quite rude with an obviously ignorant but innocent enough e-mail from Giorgio. It smacked of horrible knee-jerk defensiveness and it shows itself in other pieces you have written recently. It should make others doubt your objectivity on matters about Korea. He did e-mail you with a question after all, so I guess he was looking help in understanding the situation with regard to plastic surgery. You could have educated this person without humiliating them, that was unnecessary.

      PS: I would also like to point out that Stewart and Colbert are on prime time TV (and incredibly popular). Korean netizens complaining on the internet is hardly in the same ball park.

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    6. @Clay You likely haven't lived anywhere except Korea and the US. Otherwise you'd realize that people in every country can react a bit sensitive to criticism of their country/society by foreign residents. How often you encounter this and how strong such reactions are may differ -- from my own, likely non-representative, experience Koreans are roughly on par with Americans in this regard. Canadians tend to be more mellow whereas many Europeans (especially Brits or the French) react with more indignation (how dare you point out flaws/idiosyncracies in their precious culture?).

      (Also @Christopher) Stewart and Colbert are your idea of "criticism of the US"? You guys really ought to broaden your horizon...

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    7. This person works as a medical tourism professional in plastic surgery clinics in Korea and you dismissed their points as if they were nothing. In fact, you only address the bit you took offence to in his first comment and then tarnished the whole thing as 'expat bitterness'. That is very poor.

      I'm not sure if you understood the point of my post. Nowhere in the post did I defend anything about Korea's plastic surgery. All I did in the post is to ask people to think a bit deeper before opening one's mouth. Clay did not get this either, and launched into BS about how I was a butthurt gyopo reflexively defending Korea.

      Clay's opinion about Korea's plastic surgery is not relevant to this post. Not because it is wrong, but because that is not the topic. That's why I did not address it. And if Clay was so presumptuous to think that I was advancing a point that I never made, it seems plain that he was a typical bitter expat.

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    8. I don't know whether you have just been wounded by years of criticism by people on this blog, but the way you reply to criticism of your writing is becoming more and more bitter. And you also do what you have done in this reply a lot and claim absolutely no relevance in the replies that people write, which I am not sure is always true. I think you dodge a lot of important questions with this tactic and miss the chance to explore some useful ground. What I like about your blog is that you raise such interesting topics and give some great angles to arguments. Unfortunately, you cling to them so hard and dismiss other's counter-points too easily.

      What would be wrong in offering an apology to Giorgio if you came across as rude or too harsh on him? I rarely see compromises or even the admittance of small errors by you on this blog and I do think your ultra pro-everything Korean stance is reducing the credibility of your opinions and your objectivity.

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    9. Bitter? No. But I do think I have gotten more terse about the way I respond, for a simple reason: I realized that no matter how in-depth and sincere my responses are, they do nothing on people who are not ready to listen. At some point, I decided to not waste my effort on those who don't deserve it.

      I think you dodge a lot of important questions with this tactic and miss the chance to explore some useful ground.

      That's a strange statement coming from someone who wrote a long post about how people are not projecting the arguments that he never made. Why is it so hard to apply your own standards to this post? Surely, I get to choose what I want to talk about in a given post, don't I? And if you think I have a "ultra pro-everything Korean stance," you have not been reading my writing long enough.

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    10. "That's a strange statement coming from someone who wrote a long post about how people are not projecting the arguments that he never made."

      Not exactly sure what you mean or what post you are talking about, but (let me guess) I think I was trying to weed out exactly where people were criticising me on my blog and whether they were justified or not, despite feeling they were misunderstanding me. I still addressed them, I did not dismiss them.

      "if you think I have a "ultra pro-everything Korean stance," you have not been reading my writing long enough."

      It is quite possible I haven't been reading your writing long enough, but recently (the last year or so I guess) the ultra pro-Korean stance is the pattern I have been noticing. Future posts to the contrary could make me change my mind for sure.

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    11. Chris the issue Korean had with Clay isn't that he claims to work in the "medical tourism profession" but the fact his best insight as a "medical tourism professional" has nothing to do with the "medical tourism profession" but a rant about "butthurt" gyopos and a completely stereotypical bigoted generalization how it's the ultra rare exceptional Korean who can manage to agree with his trailer park views. The emotionally mature ones lol.

      The dude can't even argue the post. He has to engage in the most hackneyed nonsense where he attacks the messenger and his ethnicity. "You people!" Do you even realize how OLD and out of touch he sounds like. He's like the cringeworthy stereotype of the 45 year loser who went to Asia who still thinks it's 1999. As just a regular clued-in college student (and yes I'm caucasian since generalizing by race is so important to you old timers) it's an embarrassment to think that tone-deaf guys like him still represent the interaction that most Asians still have with Americans over there.

      You sound exactly like him, do you have an issue with processing logic? Just because you can't score a Korean babe or w/e is no reason for you to go full retard crying about what someone else posts on his blog.

      You can't even manage to post anything original or insightful about the topic, you spend all your time whining about what a bad Korean askakorean is as if taking down some blogger is going to be your achievement for the year. Just look at your posts. I guess he's Korea's Stewart and you're Korea's Colbert? Bringing truth to the unwashed Asian masses?

      just take a clue and smarten up. The problem isn't that askakorean is Korean it's that you are both unsocialized losers who probably can't carry on a conversation with any other color of American, yellow brown white or black.

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    12. Funny. I thought you might have a semblance of a point in your first paragraph and I was taking your criticism seriously, then you criticised my logic while at the same time spouting nonsensical assumptions about my life. I am married to a Korean woman by the way and she doesn't think the same way as TheKorean, I can tell you. Keep working on those deductions, Sherlock!!

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  8. I guessed it would be the Jezebel article, before clicking the link. I would have preferred that it was not linked so that it may disappear into oblivion.

    I agree with the general sentiment this post, that questions like these are ignorant and dehumanizing. The person asking the question is assuming that people who undergo surgery do it to please him, or people like him. If I had undergone surgery, I imagine that I would not care if he liked my original features, because I would be doing it for myself, to bring myself better opportunities, so that people treated me better and I can get farther in life.

    I do not agree with the sentiment that cosmetic surgery is the same as makeup or Lasik. There is a innate human reaction to cosmetic surgery that makes it different from orthodontic surgery that I cannot find a good explanation for. Why does the idea of normal-looking healthy people getting cosmetic surgery feel threatening to people? Somehow it is acceptable for people with truly horrible disfiguration to receive cosmetic surgery but not otherwise. I am starting to rant but in general, I do agree that the original question asked was inappropriate and that there are far more interesting questions to consider on the topic.

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  9. Your defensive nature is sad. Show me another place with a tower of human jawbones (besides Auschwitz):

    http://www.fearnet.com/news/news-article/korean-plastic-surgeon-fined-building-towers-real-human-jawbones

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    1. The only thing I defended is the act of thinking before talking. Why is that so offensive to you?

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    2. you also defended (in this post, but also in many others) the right to assume that the korean collective acts rationally and autonomously in all situations. i don't think one can assume that about any society, much less one with the recent history and the current hypercompetitive reality like today's korea. i'd argue that this is a rather valid point (if that's what Giorgio was hinting at), even though i may not necessarily agree with it. certainly worth considering more deeply before dismissing it as even a possibility because it does not portray a certain subset of korea (i.e., those getting cosmetic surgery) as acting autonomously.

      also, it is possible that Giorgio was actually asking a completely different question, which is how koreans perceive their natural features to appear to Westerners. that would have been a valid question in my opinion.

      Delete
    3. @No Name: that's quite a thing to say, that Koreans (or at least a subset of them) do not act autonomously. You may end up being right, but it would be more fruitful to explain your point further and make your case.

      Delete
  10. I found this whole exchange pretty amusing, and it's finally enough to make me come out of lurkdom and comment. Mostly because if I had to venture a guess, I think poor Giorgio was trying to say he felt Korean women are beautiful (albeit in a very clumsy, ethnocentric and yes, ignorant way). I think he may have even thought he would win some points with you, TK! He obviously needs to read your blog more.

    As far as my own thoughts, yes, it was rude to assume that Korean women are modifying their appearance simply to please Westerners or look more Western. I instead view it as similar to what happens here in the U.S., where many aspiring actresses/newscasters/models change their appearance to better their chances of succeeding. I find it sad in both cases, but as a woman myself I can attest to the pressure from lots of sources as far as how I should look. What I found shocking was that in Daniel Tudor's book (which I read on TK's suggestion) he implied that Korean culture is now so competitive that modifying your appearance is seen as a necessity for nearly every young woman to succeed. I would say that's not the case in the U.S. I'm not saying that IS true about South Korea, but I did get that impression when I read it. Lots of very interesting questions could be asked about this subject...just not by Giorgio.

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  11. I don't understand why everyone is pretending not to see the elephant in the room. Research has proven time and time again that all things being equal, attractive people end of making a lot more money than less attractive people (yes, this is universal, even in our good U.S.A). They also get a much better social response from other people. Research has also found that men are willing to buy from beautiful women, when they do not buy from less attractive ones. I haven't seen the reverse research, but I have no doubt is the same for women.
    Why the hypocrisy? We'd like to think we are better than that, but when put to the test, we really aren't.

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  12. Breast implants/complete facial overhauls (not merely double eye-lids) - I must admit, I am critical of those. To me that spells out a person who ether lacks self-esteem and/or has a rather superficial personality obsessed with one's appearance.
    It has nothing to do with my, your or their culture, but is rather a psychological analysis.

    Aside from that, it would appear that many Koreans ask the plastic surgeon for the same look - which leads to a creation of clones. Here, though, I'd agree that this criticism may be caused by my cultural upbringing. While in Korea 'sameness' is applauded, in the west we often encourage the development of individual and unique traits/appearances.

    PS. There are, of course, instances in which a person with a seriously disfigured face should get a plastic surgery, but too often that is not the case.

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  13. Dear "the" Korean,

    Here are the reasons why I keep reading your blog:

    1. I am interested in Korean culture
    2. It is in English
    3. You raise important questions

    Here are the reasons why I hate your blog:
    1. You are very opinionated and your opinions are NOT based on science
    2. Your posts are not informative enough and are totally biased
    3. Sometimes your opinions are very crappy, excuse my French

    Now for the issue.

    I don't think this question is dumb. In fact, it is kind of cute. "Georgio" loves Koreans the way they are, unaltered. So he does not understand all this obsession with looking more beautiful according to Western standards. There is absolutely NOTHING dumb about it.

    Now for the arguments:
    I don't know what they taught you in your health class, but if I were your health teacher, I would fail you big time. Wearing braces and doing any kind of orthodontic work is not a luxury but a necessity. If your teeth are not aligned or you have a straight bite, you will get unnecessary wear and tear which eventually lead to losing your teeth. My mom had to pay and arm and a leg for her dental work because back in the olden days, when she was young, they did not even have an orthodontist in the place where she grew up. Bleaching your teeth is optional, but it is not a major procedure and it does not require and anesthesiologist, at least not to my knowledge.

    I mean, are you just pretending you don't understand the difference between a LASIK surgery and plastic surgery? One is done so you can SEE well, and the other is done so you can LOOK well. I did not think this explanation was needed, I guess I was wrong.

    Anyway, let's see what is wrong with going under the knife. Number one: any time you are undergoing any medical treatment, especially with general anesthesia, you are taking a risk. Something might go wrong, even if you are a young and healthy person. Just think of that little girl who had some dental work done with two root canals and ended up dead. I mean, no child or no person should ever lose their life over some root canals.

    Also, when you are changing your appearance surgically (i.e. permanently), it is different from applying makeup. Makeup can be erased, but the double lid surgery or your "new" chin will stay with you forever. I remember reading about one Chinese dude who sued his wife for bearing two very ugly children. When he got married to her, he was enticed by her beautiful face just to discover later that it was her plastic surgeon who made it beautiful. The girl was extremely ugly before the surgery, she did not tell her husband about the surgery, and both kids looked just like their mom. Whether that Chinese guy was right or wrong (and in my opinion he is a scum) I cannot say. I also believe that people have the right to have plastic surgery WHEN IT IS NECESSARY.

    However, sometimes (and for the most part) it is not. Just because somebody THINKS she needs plastic surgery does not mean she actually needs it. There is one Korean actress. She is in her 50s or 60s, but she had a face lift done, possibly more than once, and, unfortunately, now she looks like an alien. Her eyes are not even Korean. It hurts to look at her perform in dramas. She is a living ad for NOT going under the knife.

    Plastic surgery as it is done in Korea en masse is, in my opinion, totally unnecessary. When you examine all the contestants for Miss Korea, they look like identical twins with minor variations. I think the anthem for Miss Korea competition should be the song "I am an Asian Barbie girl".

    Anyway, your article would be much more informative and useful if you 1. listed the % of Korean women who go through plastic surgery every year by procedure 2. informed us about the history of plastic surgery in S. Korea 3. explained the ramifications, both positive and negative

    I understand, you don't have time, you are busy. Plus you can write whatever you please. Well, that's why we have to read yet another opinion totally unsupported by science. Sigh.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The anecdote about the Chinese couple is fake: http://www.abc15.com/dpp/news/local_news/water_cooler/Man-sues-over-ugly-baby-Jian-Feng-Chinese-man-sues-wife-after-she-has-extremely-ugly-baby-girl1384191149764.

      http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/11/07/man-sued-wife-ugly-baby-hoax_n_4231992.html.

      http://www.snopes.com/media/notnews/uglybaby.asp.

      Delete
    2. I was also about to post a site link debunking the ugly wife being sued myth.

      Otherwise, you make some very legitimate points. I look forward to the day when The Korean starts to compare heart by-pass surgeries to plastic surgeries and determine that they serve the exact same function.

      One has to keep in mind that regardless of how valid or logical our criticism may be, the most common conclusion here is that we are culturally insensitive and simply do not understand the Korean culture.

      Delete
    3. If this story about the Chinese guy is not true, I apologize for misinformation. I've read that story on one of discussion boards, and I promise never to come back to that site.

      You might THINK some people do not understand the Korean culture, but surprisingly, I find it is quite easy to understand. I do not claim I know more than any Korean person about his or her culture, but it is not that complex, let me assure you. It is very logical and unique.

      Delete
    4. You thought Giorgio's question was "cute"? WHY? As an Asian female, I was disgusted by it. It reeks of yellow fever. He assumes that Korean women pursuing plastic surgery are doing it to be accepted by Westerners. Sorry but North America is not the center of the world. That type of attitude is really annoying, so I'm not surprised TK replied back in a harsh manner. I wouldn't have even bothered giving statistics. Why put so much effort into educating an individual who probably doesn't see the wrong in fetishizing a race?
      It seems like you know a bit about Korea, so you should know about how stressful living in such a society must be and how appearance and grades/school determines how far you can get in life. But reading your post on your anti-plastic surgery stance, you're making an assumption that everyone/most people in Korea DON'T need it. Because inner beauty is what counts, right? I've never been to Korea but I'd make a guess that maybe 20% of the people there actually look like the pretty Korean actresses and idols (who are actually just "okay" if you take away the makeup and clothes), and the rest are average looking or below. If you've seen some low budget Korean films, I think the actresses/actors in it are a closer representation of an average Korean's appearance. They're not all glamorous and I am not surprised if they'd want plastic surgery to trim their square jaw for a V-shape or enlarge their eyes.
      You're also anti-plastic surgery because of uniformity.. But if you put a group of people that fit the same beauty ideals (with or without unnatural enhancements), hypothetically they would essentially all look the same.

      Delete
    5. Not only did I think that Giorgio's question was cute, but also I thought it was very sweet. Yellow fever? Not every person who worships Koreans is obsessed.

      Consider this: let's say you are a Star War's fan. For Halloween you dress up as Luke Skywalker, your phone rings a familiar tune, and you keep a miniature Yoda on your dashboard, etc. etc. It does not mean, however, that you want to dry hump everything Star Wars that comes your way. Being a fan and having a fetish are two different things. Why does everything has to have sexual undertones?

      Now for his "yellow fever". How do you know he does not have a girlfriend already? And I bet she is not even Asian. He is just a caring person and is probably under Korean culture influence. Even if he is into Korean girls, it does not make him a pervert. Most people have a "love map" and personal preference for how his ideal woman or man should look like. Maybe his love map is somewhere around Seoul? Being rude and saying "that's stupid" is so banmal. Why not to be nice and polite about it?

      TK's answer is completely uninformative and even rude. Well, ethnically he is a full Korean but mentally he ain't so... I cannot really be upset with his answer. But it would be nice to hear somebody's reasons why Koreans are so obsessed with their looks.

      I like everything Korea, but I am very aware of the pressure Korean culture puts on its people. Being number 1 in the world in suicide rankings says it all. Heck, I would not want to live there. I would not even want to have a Korean boyfriend - not because of the race issues but because of cultural differences. Male cheating is like expected.

      However, it does not mean that I cannot admire certain things. Or people. Or ideas. I believe Korean culture has A LOT to offer to the world. I don't want it to be completely Americanized and destroyed. I also want Korea to be more aggressive when it comes to popularizing its culture. Look at Japan - those sushi restaurants are popping all over! American movies are complete crap, yet they rack in cash and spread like cancer around the globe. If anything is worthy of being watched, that's Korean dramas, in my opinion.

      Anyway, I think you are way too young to realize why Georgio asked his question. And it was NOT out of Asian fever, let me assure you.


      Delete
  14. This is a reply to VB. I think everything you said about The Korean applies to everything you said. Completely bias. Whatever criticism people feel for plastic surgery, in general, applies equally to all cultures. You have obviously never been to Florida or California beaches. Most bodies look cloned. The same silicon breasts everywhere. That is in a massive escale. Let's be less judgmental and arrogant please.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is a reply to "Sophie". I used to live in Los Angeles and spent quite a lot of time on the beach. Most people do not have silicon breasts so most bodies DO NOT look cloned. Quite a few people need to lose weight, if I may say so.

      Also, if you don't want to be biased - find the number of plastic surgeries in the USA by type and compare it to S.Korea (adjusted for 1000 people). The bias stops here. FACTS ARE STUBBORN THINGS.

      Delete
  15. FACTS:

    http://abcnews.go.com/Health/niptuck-nations-countries-cosmetic-surgery/story?id=16205231

    http://www.businessinsider.com/map-of-countries-with-most-cosmetic-procedures-2013-12

    Let's be less judgmental and arrogant please. Let's just stick to the facts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Who disputed that Korea has high rate of plastic surgery?

      Delete
    2. Yes, the rate of plastic surgery per capita in Korea is high, but not exorbitantly so: ~30% higher than in the US (see the very same data in a barchart in the economist link I posted above). If you assume a reasonable variation between US states (with, say, Maine having a lower than average rate, and sunny weather states higher), the rate in California may very well be as high or higher than in Korea (yes, this is pure conjecture).

      My only point is: Look at hard data, and use your brain. These sort of sensationalist numbers (even TK had posted them himself some time ago) of "X in 5 Korean woman had some form of plastic surgery" are at best misleading half-truth and at worst straight out made up. Just do the math.

      Delete
    3. As for hard data: just a couple of years ago the U.S. was the number one country for plastic surgery. Is that information somehow misleading, half-truth or made up? We all know that this is the case. I guess the numbers can be used conveniently when we are discussing Korea. As if there is no medical tourism in California (which serves as a mecca for all those who want to alter their bodies) or Californians have no tattoos or piercings of any sort.

      The point is NOT which country leads in plastic surgery. The point is - why is South Korea so plastic surgery crazy and what are the ramifications of that?

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrqc-VYaMTg

      Delete
    4. VB quit being a fucking retard. Plastic surgery rates are correlated to economic means of the middle class. That's why America and Japan were #1 worldwide and in Asia. When China has more than 15% of its population in the middle class it will be #1.

      You don't even know what the fuck is going on. There's no per capita numbers at all, yet all these articles talk about made up per capita numbers. The TOTAL procedures are tracked obviously for oversight and liability reasons but surgeons do not reveal who got what done even to professional organizations (look up the policy of the American boards) for PRIVACY reasons so per capita numbers do not even EXIST. These articles aren't based on data and you're talking about FACTS.

      Korea is only slight more "plastic surgery crazy" than the US or other countries. Someone has to be number 1 at any time. It's your ignorant ass that's making up the issue in your mind that Korea is obsessed with PS or that China is evil. Do you live in a trailer park or in the ghetto? America's educational system has failed you

      Delete
    5. Fucking retard... Music to my ears! It takes a Korean to insult another person. Why? Because you had your chin shaved and your eyelids done? I hope you look better now, since you were probably pretty ugly before. Or at least feel better, calling another person names.

      Of course, you know what the fuck is going on. "There's no per capita numbers at all" and "Korea is only slighty more plastic surgery crazy than the US countries". How can those two sentences be together in one post, that does not make any sense.

      Your ignorant ass is trying to cover up the issue. Yes, Koreans are obsessed with plastic surgery. Deal with it. China is evil. And North Korea too.

      No, I live in a trailer park in Gang-ham. I am an out of wedlock child of Psy. Korean educational system failed me, but at least I am not made of silicone. Enjoy!


      Delete
    6. I don't think any reliable numbers exist. We know how many "procedures" are performed (based on what the clinics tell us?), but how that translates into per capita numbers is not straightforward. From what I understand, Korea is a regional "medical hub" and not all patients are native Koreans. To the extent that has been successful, the stats are upwardly biased.

      Delete
  16. i'm echoing Mark Muster's point that these are sensationalist numbers. The number don't even include the percentage of medical tourist coming into Korea for procedures. I mean we can't just take the number of procedures reported and then come up with a per capita number when things aren't equal, when demographics, landscapes etc, the stories are different. We also don't include numbers of procedures of Koreans that live north of the 38th parallel. Why aren't these procedures included? And why aren't tattoos or piercings or ear stretchings, nose and lip stretchings, self cuttings, trepanations, amputations by American acrotomophiliacs and numerous other often times extreme and permanent modifications Americans do to their bodies included in these as "aesthetic/cosmetic" procedures?

    I'm sure if we included these procedures and compared similar cities with similar lifestyles, and twist the numbers a little bit we could push America on top again and then create this false narrative through media through newspaper and blogs that ALL Americans are crazy and shallow and superficial.

    And then maybe I can go to the average American living in some surburban town and drag him into the conversation and ask him or her, why are Americans so obsessed with plastic surgery and body modifications? I can show him all the pictures that are available on the net. Then we could gather our numerous armchair anthropologists, armchair pop-psychologists, armchair philosophers, armchair zoologists, self-proclaimed Americana expert bloggers from around the world and create this roundtable circlejerk discussion and try to theorize why Americans are so obsessed with their plastic surgery and body modifications. Theorize it to nationalism and American patriotism, or blame on American white guilt or link it the Angry White Man syndrome... whatever, just makes sure to keep this a permanent topic of discussion, and just make sure keep the Americans out of the discussion.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I didn't read "the stupid article", but I took a look at the featured photos and I find it exaggerated to say these girls got westernised after the treatment. Seriously. Western girls don't look like that and the fashion for cosmetic surgery seems to be pretty different as well. Seems to me that Asian women try to achieve a softer face, while western girls a sharper and strong look. I might be wrong, since I didn't explore the world of cosmetic surgery deep enough, but this is a personal impression of mine based on a surfaced common knowledge.

    Anyway, it has nothing to do with looking like western or not, it is rather a matter of fashion imposed by the mass media and this is something temporary, something that changes just like any other trend does. Of course, SOME of the Asian girls might want to have a "westernish" look but, please, do not exclude the western girls that try to look like Asians. There's plenty of them actually.

    Finally, the round eyes, oval or triangular face shape and a small nose are kinda typical for many Japanese cartoons in the 1980's and 1990's. And those of today, of course, but various authors developed various styles and various cliches for different genres, so now that's hard to generalise. Just Saying.

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  18. Koreans do plastic surgery well. In Japan, the obsession with big round eyes leads to grotesque looking people, and in the West reptilian faces and stupidly fake-looking boobs are too frequent.

    The 'double' eyelid surgery to make the eyes look rounder and/or bigger is a sort of backhanded compliment to western looks in that large eyes ('Disney eyes' in the trade) just do trigger a certain response in us. Are certain facial feature types popular in Korea because they are objectively better looking or because Koreans are subconsciously influenced by Western culture or perhaps a bit of both? They don't aspire to have body hair or large noses, for instance.

    There is something offputting about the extreme popularity of plastic surgery in Korea, however. Part of it is the readiness to follow any trend for the sake of conformity. What else might a Korean not do if the crowd were all doing it? It comes all too easily to human beings to follow the crowd without having a culture that embraces such behaviour as a positive in itself. Partly, it is the brutality. A disregard for your own skin and bone seems unfeeling and how much more must they disregard the pain of others? The worship of superficial appearance is also a symptom of naked materialism, itself a brutal ideology. Partly also, it is simply that it defies the norms of our own society and makes the Koreans more of an Other.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amazingly you present your case well but the fact is that epicanthic fold surgery doesn't make an Asian's eyes look "western."

      Regardless of any other discourse there's absolutely no way to get around the nonstarter that GETTING EYELID SURGERY DOESN'T MAKE YOU LOOK ANY MORE "WHITE." So it's impossible to even start down the road of what the implications of looking what might mean.

      Getting eyelid surgery makes you look like a Korean with double eyelids. Around 25% of Koreans have natural double eyelids. In fact it's common for most families to have 1 parent or sibling with double and others without. So getting eyelid surgery makes you look... like a different Korean.

      The real question is when the last time you were in Korea. Most of these criticism actually can be traced back to our media here in the US. Americans really have no idea what Asians actually look like. Hollywood only puts a sort of sexy, smoldering, chinky-eyed (and typically darker) Asian woman on the screen. It's like in the 80s when Americans though all black guys looked like eddie murphy and were going to mug you.

      Delete
    2. You see all this criticism as coming from ignorant, media-influenced Americans who have no idea what they're talking about and amaze you if they can actually present a case. It's hypocritical to slam others for not questioning their assumptions when you evidently do not question your own.

      You're also dodging the question of why bigger eyes are deemed more attractive. I offered 2 possible explanations, neither of which was 'because getting eyelid surgery makes you look more white', but you were so determined to shout that one down I guess you didn't hear what I actually said. I won't repeat it, because it's up there in black and white already.

      The last time I was in Korea, by the way, was last summer.

      Delete
    3. Matt: "You're also dodging the question of why bigger eyes are deemed more attractive"

      EVERYONE deems bigger eyes more attractive. But why exacty? It's a neotenic trait and it is universally considered attractive.

      Delete
  19. I don't think there's anything wrong with plastic surgery on an abstract level. As you said, we all modify ourselves "unnaturally" to improve ourselves physically, mentally, intellectually, etc. If anything, rigid opposition to plastic surgery often reveals one to be EXTREMELY superficial because usually, that person is only against plastic surgery because he or she only wants to be with "pure" beauties, as opposed to "fake" ones who undeservedly cheated their way to hotness. It's as if they believe that beauty is not merely skin-deep but rather, goes right down to your very soul. And ugly people are just somehow inherently inferior, which they cannot mask with cosmetic procedures.

    And don't get me started on the, "But I want beautiful children!" argument, which is so fucked up in so many ways that I can't even begin.

    The only reason that I am wary of Korean plastic surgery is the ethnic/racial element of it, which come on, we all have to acknowledge exists. Maybe Koreans aren't trying to look White, but they are often trying to look less "stereotypically Korean." While not exactly the same thing, it does denote a less-than-confident outlook on being Korean, and that adding an element of Whiteness is seen as some kind of upgrade.

    If taken in the isolate, then this would be a reach of an argument. But if you look at the aggregate picture—Koreans' obsession with English, admiration of European culture, relatively high rates of interracial relationships with (and only with) White people, generally very positive stereotypes of White people vs. very negative stereotypes of all other racial groups, etc.—we have to be more critical when YET ANOTHER part of Korean society devalues something that is perceived as commonly Korean in favour of something closer to what is perceived as White.

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    Replies
    1. 'generally very positive stereotypes of White people' Huh??? I just wanted to welcome you to Korea, since this may be your first day here. Try reading the local newspapers and then let me know how many positive stereotypes of WHITE people you have found vs. the negative ones.

      'relatively high rates of interracial relationships with (and only with) White people' - ??? Again, let me congratulate you arriving here. Please, let at the interracial marriage/relationships statistics in Korea and then try posting here when you are a just a little bit more informed. By the way, try to venture outside of Itaewon once in a while, you may find it educational.

      'If anything, rigid opposition to plastic surgery often reveals one to be EXTREMELY superficial because usually, that person is only against plastic surgery because he or she only wants to be with "pure" beauties, as opposed to "fake" ones who undeservedly cheated their way to hotness' - Very interesting. I, myself, have seen way too many plastic surgeries which changed people's appearance in an adverse way - this is common here, as well as in the west. Your admiration for plastic surgeries tells me that you haven't seen any and/or you are a fan of big cilicon breasts


      Delete
  20. Just a few comments. I lived in Korea before plastic surgery and Korean women looked fine.
    I like the darker coloration. It was a pre-modern look, pre-Silicon Valley, pre-Madison Avenue look. I like the darker color still. Korean women really look best at dusk or city lit evening. Very sensual look about them at that time.

    American women have clearly lost the ability to look romantic. They go for the sorority girl brutalist-gymnasium-BMW-magazine cover look. That's about as good as they get these days. Dallas cheerleader type. Main squeeze for the black linebackers. So it's ridiculous and somewhat Semitic to retain these archaic ideas that white women are the look Korean women are going for. On surface it is true, but context says otherwise. Which is why I bring in the Semitic observation, because Semites so often have trouble dealing with context.

    You can be pointy and judgemental. You can be a white bigot or a Korean chauvinist. But in the end, technology wins.



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  21. Yeah you're right the point is to be able to ask the right questions. The real issue isn't PS. In truth body modification whether it's tattoos, piercings, cosmetic dental work. cosmetic eye surgery, w/e is a basic human impulse throughout history. And as with all human impulses, there are dumb people who have the corresponding impulse to moralize about what other ppl do with their bodies. Even tattoos were strongly stigmatized in the US not too long ago. Just about every society in history either has a TRADITION of body modification (tattooing, foot binding, ear elongating, cranium shaping w/e) or it has specific PROHIBITIONS against the very thing (Jews, Chinese). Old story. Not interesting

    What's fascinating is what you have touched on. The IDEA of surgery as political currency is really interesting. The original roots of the criticism of Korean PS emerged post-hallyu from ultra right Neo Fascist websites in Japan but the trope was then embraced by the Chinese propagandists of the CCP in conjunction with the PRC NW History Project for completely different purpose. In recent years it's been again co-opted (paradoxically) by both Right Wing bigots in the USA and Left leaning Feminist bloggers for their own (and divergent) agendas. The fixation with demonizing and body shaming Korean women is something that goes beyond talking about Korea but demonstrates how Asian nations themselves jostle politically and socially, and how the West co-opts narrative to grind axes against Asians and Asian nations.

    The Western view for example, is vested in a heavy handed sort of post-Colonial paternalism. "They want to be white!" is a irresistible narrative to many Americans at a time when we seem to be "losing" to the Yellow Hordes. But in truth this trope isn't only completely foreign to the motivations of the Korean women themselves but wouldn't have occurred to Japanese or Chinese nationalists who see PS as a political knife to wield against their "competitor" in the hysterical battle that rages in their minds for cultural and social supremacy in Asia. For example photoshopped pictures of Korean beauty contestants created for the purpose of "hey don't believe dirty Koreans their women are not more beautiful than ours!" from a Japanese source will mutate in the hands of Jezebelle and become "wow Asians really really hate themselves and want to look white." Which of course to many readers of Jezebelle codifies paternalism and resentment toward ALL Asian Societies: Korean, Chinese Japanese... and hardens some noobs' convictions that Asia needs saving from itself. Hardly the effect that the original bigots in Japan had in mind.

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    Replies
    1. Here's a clued in Korean college student who just gets to the point. I think most would agree his opinion weighs more than a Korea fanboy.

      http://koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2014/02/113_151938.html

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  22. This question that Giorgio sent in is very similar to questions I use to get when I ran a japanese learning website a few years ago. People who were learning Japanese mostly because of anime, and I would get questions, why did anime make people have big eyes like westerners ? Which is the most dumbest thing to say, but hey these were young kids just loving the hell out of anime, and to them the stereotype of big eyes was only for westerners and the asian slant eyes was a huge stereotype that american's get.

    Little did they know that anime's big eyes are just big because it's easier to express emotions with that, and it's a style. Another thing I got was people asking why there were so many blondes in anime , why were the Japanese drawing westerners again ?

    In truth, most anime are based of manga, and manga are usually printed in black and white, now what's the easiest way for you to distinguish characters ? Right, by making some of them have black and some of them have "white" or "blonde" hair.

    When these manga get animated, thats why you see characters with different hair colors too.

    Anyways, my point is people from america always assume that an asian country is doing something to be like america .... It gets quite annoying....

    ReplyDelete
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  25. Sorry, I haven't read all the comments, so maybe I'm repeating.

    Firstly, I'm glad TK has stopped saying that Korea's plastic surgery is necessarily aimed towards looking more Western. There is an old blog post where TK takes that position. I see that he's changed his mind somewhat since then.

    Secondly, there is a difference between LASIK, (non cosmetic) dental work and cosmetic plastic surgery. Needless to say, the first two are functional and the last is not.

    So then, what's wrong with cosmetic plastic surgery? How is it different from makeup, showering, teeth whitening or straightening?

    Answer: there is little difference... except -- plastic surgery pushes the boundaries of accepted norms while other forms of physical alteration lie within established norms.

    What do I mean by that?

    Fashion and beauty are human qualities. It's part of what makes us intelligent apes. Unfortunately, fashion and beauty norms are often set by the vainest among us. Even if you are not the fashionable type, society makes it impossible to skirt the latest trends altogether unless you want to be subject to ridicule. Whether we like it or not, it is the superficial who dictate what we wear, how we should smell, and how we even comb our hairs.

    But being at the cutting edge of fashion carries a price. The first cave man to don feathers probably invited guffaw. What is he trying to look like, a bird or maybe a woman? But in time, head ornaments came to symbolize status, even nobility.

    The paradox is that while vanity is not an admirable quality, as social animals, we are forced to practice some forms of vanity that become established norms. And as technology continues to improve, there is little doubt that cosmetic plastic surgery will increase and more forms of physical alteration will become normalized as boundaries are pushed and stretched. Eventually (in the far off future), it's conceivable that designing your own eyes or nose will be as easy as downloading an app. And like ties and hats, maybe people will someday change how they look just as often.

    For Korea, the trouble is not that it is doing something wrong but that it is seen as leading the way, and therefore, perceived as a people overly preoccupied with appearance and the superficial. While vanity is a human condition, you generally don't want to be seen as a leading pioneer, just a fashion conscious follower.

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  26. @Clay Revi @Christopher Smith --- I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that both of you are white. I'm American, not white, live in the North, and trust me, when I say anything critical of the United States (First Amendment, anyone?), other Americans are NOT open to criticism or debate. The first response is, "Go home." (Which overlooks the fact that, well, I am home). Another popular response is, "India has a lot of problems." Yes, it does. But I am not Indian, and I am not discussing India. I am American and discussing America. You both felt like foreigners when you were living in Korea? Tough. I'm American, born and raised, and have been made to feel a foreigner for my entire life, in my home country. I'm guessing that black people, Hispanics, all non-white people, really, have that same experience. You both should really avoid the gross generalizations you are making as to the "American" experience, and realize -- there is no one "American" experience. There is only your experience. And it is different for everyone.

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  27. I read an article about many models, actors, actresses in Korea being required to undergo plastic surgery so that they could be accepted into the industry... and I couldn't for the life of me figure out how that was any different than anywhere else. I also don't think there's anything inherently wrong with wanting plastic surgery. I'm considering working with a Vancouver plastic surgeon myself, and am finding lots of good information at http://plasticsurgeryinfo.ca/. There's nothing wrong with wanting to look your best!

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