Summary: We have a tendency to look at the popularity of plastic surgery a certain way, especially if that popularity is taking root abroad. So, plastic surgery is taking off in South Korea (and China and Japan, for that matter). But is it really that surprising? The popularity of plastic surgery in South Korea seems, almost, like it should be expected.

Causes for the Rise in the Popularity of Plastic Surgery in South Korea

There have been news reports of late that have been focused on South Korea and the rise of plastic surgery there. In many ways, Seoul is now the plastic surgery capital of the world. There is more plastic surgery there, per capita, than nearly anywhere else (of course, it changes on a daily and weekly basis—depending on the various moods and rhythms of a country’s economy). The point is this, though: plastic surgery in South Korea is popular, and we want to know why.

To be sure, this is something of a loaded question. After all, why shouldn’t plastic surgery be popular in South Korea? Botox and breast augmentation are both quite popular globally; it really shouldn’t be that surprising that, in an area of substantial wealth and prosperity, such as Seoul, plastic surgery is booming.

The question I have is, are the motivations to get plastic surgery really all that different than those here in the United States or in Argentina or in Brazil? To be sure, each area brings its own set of cultural and social norms to the table, but the more I read about why people get plastic surgery in South Korea, the more it reminded me of everything I had heard writing about plastic surgery in the United States.

Youth Goes Hand in Hand with Success

In the past year, more than 650,000 procedures have been performed in Seoul. That’s a lot of procedures in such a small amount of space. To be sure, Seoul is an incredibly populated city. But that’s still indicative of an incredibly successful and popular plastic surgery scene.

One of the reasons for this is that, in South Korea, youth is seen as a sign of success. If you’re successful, after all, you have the ability to keep looking youthful. But this attitude certainly isn’t exclusive to South Korea. Indeed, youth is practically worshipped here in the United States, as it is in other areas where plastic surgery is popular.

And yet, there are certainly instances of students in South Korea getting eyelid surgery as graduation presents—a sign they will be successful.

Pop Music Fuels Plastic Surgery

Korean pop music, known more colloquially as K-Pop, has been decried as helping to contribute to this plastic surgery craze. And it kind of makes sense. We idolize pop stars and pop stars look so good. We want to look that good too.

Again, this reminds me of plastic surgery in the United States. We would certainly be remiss if we did not give Angelina Jolie or Kim Kardashian credit for fueling some plastic surgery crazes. In fact, we can go right down the list:

  • Angelina Jolie: Breast augmentation
  • Kylie Jenner/Megan Fox: Lip Augmentation
  • Beyonce/Jennifer Lopez: Brazilian Butt Lift
  • Kim Kardashian: Well… everything

I could keep going. Certainly, Brad Pitt has influenced his fair share of plastic surgery procedures. But the point is that Celebrities—whether K-Pop or Hollywood—have a tendency to influence trends and preferences in the world of plastic surgery.

Not Meant to be an “Apples to Apples” Comparison

To be sure, this is not meant to be a direct comparison. I’m not saying that South Korea is really no different from the United States and that there are no differences between plastic surgery patients. Each area of the globe is going to have its own unique qualities.

I suppose my point, then, is that I wish we would resist eroticizing other areas of the globe when we see plastic surgery suddenly take off (or slowly grow, for that matter). It’s not surprising, after all, that plastic surgery would become popular; perhaps we can be taken aback by the speed or intensity of a sudden surge in popularity, but the notion that other areas of the globe would enjoy plastic surgery as much as we do is, well, to be expected.

It’s Getting Easier to Get Plastic Surgery, if You Want it

The other side of this coin is that, if you want plastic surgery, it’s becoming more accessible. Of course, that also opens a whole can of worms in terms of pressure to get plastic surgery—but that’s a different article. For the moment, we can be pleased that, broadly speaking, those who want plastic surgery are finding it easier to get.

Whether you’re looking for eyelid surgery in Washington D.C. or liposuction in Seoul, these procedures are out there and available. In the end, it’s up to the patient to decide whether he or she wants to take advantage of them.

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