Why is Plastic Surgery so Popular in Korea?

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Welcome folks! Our fellow Seoul neighbors and good friends Simon & Martina gave us a shout on their TL,DR, so our site might not be loading as fast. We wanted to give a big warm welcome to all the EYK fans out there, and if you’re curious about Korean plastic surgery then you’ve come to the right place.

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5 Factors Fueling Korean plastic surgery

On to today’s post. We wanted to carry on the topic in EYK’s TL,DR video and the following list is based on our insights and research, so take it as defacto reasoning as opposed to the absolute truth of this multifaceted and factored trend.

1) An Acceptable Taboo

Korean society overtime has become more open to cosmetic surgery and it’s not seen as such a social stigma. People aren’t shy about it, speak about it openly, and some encourage or enable it from a peer level, all the way to the parental level.

  • A common graduation present from parents is eyelid surgery, some even extend this to nose and jaw surgery.
  • It’s not uncommon for people to walk around wrapped in bandages or face masks after their surgery and go out and about in public.

2) Lookism – A Social Currency

Some aspects of modern Korean culture place a high social value on being attractive, and giving preferential treatment to physically attractive people. And bullying for younger generations is as common and severe here as it is in the West:

  • In Seoul socialite circles, one may gain or be denied entry based on their appearance.
  • Taking & sharing attractive photos (“ulzzang”) of oneself (selfies) and viewing attractive selfies of others on social media is a popular pastime in Korea, and can be used as a form of social currency to gain compliments and status.
  • Many see surgery as a luxury indulgence to mark one’s status.
  • Many Koreans believe in following another person’s proven path to success, so if someone had a successful procedure, one’s peers may follow suit.
  • Many Koreans value harmony and uniformity, so there is added pressure to follow a widely accepted trend or idea.



Selfies are very popular trend in Korean social media channels such KaKao Talk

3) Life Hacking for Career & Love

Being attractive gives one an edge in a very competitive environment for jobs and attracting ‘suitable’ marriage partners.

  • Surgery can help one stand out or have an edge in photo resume selection and group interviews amongst equally qualified peers.
  • Physical attractiveness can tip the scales in “so-gae-ting,” (Korean match making), and increase direct or indirect pick-up approaches from suitors.

4) Media Saturation of Perfection

Korean media and entertainment culture (advertising and KPOP/Hallyu) can produce an influential stream of physical perfection imagery that can cause people to become more appearance conscious.

Example: Here is Korean actress Kim Tae Hee’s TV ad for Green Tea. Note, green tea has absolutely nothing to do with facial skeletal sculpting, but the ad shows a face size competition and uses the ad slogan “V-Line,” a surgery marketing term to describe a slender and V shaped face. This shows how even ads in non-related industries can reinforce the popularity of surgery.

  • On a standard 10-minute commute on Gangnam Dae-ro (Gangnam’s central street) using a public bus and subway. One can easily be exposed to 10 to 20 surgery ad impressions in 10 minutes. Even more, if they are using smart phones and browsing popular Korean websites during their commute. These may be in the form of display ads, videos and even buss announcements at each stop. “The next stop is Sinsa Station — Outside Exit 4 is XYZ Plastic Surgery….”


Example of Subway Exit Ad

5) Cost & Quality

Korean plastic surgeons are abundant, there are an estimated 500 surgery clinics in the greater Gangnam area, they are highly skilled and affordable compared to anywhere else in the world. They adopt the latest technologies; churn out tons of medical journal articles; dwarf the clinical surgery hours of surgeons elsewhere; and they have even invented new techniques and procedures.

Thinking about having surgery in Korea?

If you are planning or interested in having surgery done in Korea, and would like to know how to get started, feel free to ask us anything on our forums!

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