Plastic surgery in Korea seems to be under threat as many Korean citizens are now beginning to reject the “plastic surgery lifestyle”. Emanuel Pastreich, the head of the Asia Institute in Seoul, recently shared his feelings on the subject by stating that “here rivers of blood flow beneath the surface through the sewers from the numerous plastic surgery clinics where women go to be butchered, not because they enjoy being cut apart, but because advertising, TV shows and other images make them feel they must do so. He went on to say that “Plastic surgery in Korea is a taboo topic, like abortion or suicide. We want to make it visible because the signs and advertising make it so visible."
Korean Plastic Surgery Public Forum
The Asia Institute recently co-hosted a public gathering designed to bring attention to the potential risks and dangers of the culture of plastic surgery in Korea. The event, which was titled “Peace march against cultural violence towards women”, sought to spotlight any misuse and/or abuse of plastic surgery methods. While plastic surgery is supposed to help people, many members of the gathering actually view the performance of plastic surgery such as a facelift or breast augmentation to be a threat to social stability.
Pastreich feels that violence against women in modern day society is actually a cultural issue and not just an act of physical violence. He went on to say that much of the physical violence that is directed towards women stems from the type of cultural violence that is directed towards these women. Pastreich feels that plastic surgery, and the “cult of the woman as an object for consumption”, is at the heart of the cultural violence directed towards women and this is especially true in Korea and is certainly the case in the district of Gangnam. While consumers like to take advantage of the many services offered to them, consumerism can be seen as the result of a malaise that can be perceived as running deep in the spirit of people.
Plastic Surgery Viewed as a Common Enemy in Korea
The citizens that were taking part in the public gathering viewed ads for plastic surgery in Korea as well as also enjoying poetry readings. Following these activities, they discussed how modern day culture was able to turn women into objects seen as being fit for consumption.
One of the poets excited to take part in the event remarked on how much the anti-consumerism aspect of the event interested her. She often finds herself upset with the way society favors both men and women who are perceived as having good looks over others in society.
The overemphasis on the appearance of a person, and the often superficial manner in which others are viewed because of their looks, made her want to discuss the message that physical appearances tend to matter more than qualities that are more internal and intellectual.
Many of the participants say this large problem in society must be fought on both an individual and societal level. They hope to teach others that having self-confidence and inner strength is much more important than the way a person looks to others. The pressure placed on women to look beautiful has been created by society and, in the minds of those attending the event, must be changed by society as well.
Cosmetic Town News asked Dr. Kenneth Hughes, of Los Angeles-based Hughes Plastic Surgery, about the role plastic surgery plays in society and also about the possible pressure it might place on patients of either gender. Dr. Hughes said, “I think that plastic surgery, like all things in life, comprises a spectrum of different tastes as well as results. I do think that most people probably do want an improvement that is natural and complements them rather than draws attention to them. I think that most people who pursue plastic surgery just want a boost of confidence or to help them address some insecurity.”
The Future of Korean Plastic Surgery
While the event on the culture of plastic surgery in Korea was well received by the participants, there is no word yet about any follow-up events or future gatherings to discuss further issues regarding plastic surgery and women.
The issue of plastic surgery as it pertains to women is not simply limited to Korea. Plastic surgery is viewed differently all around the world and the way it is perceived depends on the standards of the country where the plastic surgery is performed. Some countries view plastic surgery as a daily part of life and see it as a normal part of society. Other countries view the performance of plastic surgery as making changes that hurt the person having the surgery and, as in Korea, being violent towards the person undergoing the surgery. Until there is a general standard that is accepted around the world, plastic surgery will remain a topic that will be debated and discussed for years to come.