Korean Plastic Surgery Is Not What It Seems

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It appears whenever some people mention South Korea, they can't help but wallow in one thing: plastic surgery. Let's use some common sense when we discuss it! Folks seem to check that at the door.

Okay, yes. There's lots of plastic surgery happening in South Korea! That is undeniable. You know what else is undeniable? There's a bunch of it happening in the U.S., too.


According to USA Today, the United States leads the world in the number of plastic surgeons and the number of procedures. Getting into the nitty-gritty, the U.S. leads the world in lipolplasty (fat removal), breast augmentation, blepharoplasty (for the eye region), and abdominoplasty (for abs). China, Japan, and Brazil beat the U.S. in nose jobs. Congrats on that!

But, you say, South Korea leads the world in per-person plastic surgery. As The Economist (via KoreaBang) pointed out last year, data revealed that 16 in 1,000 Koreans had undergone plastic surgery. Korean newspaper Chosun.com counters that half of those are non-invasive surgeries like peeling and botox. The Economist's data, which was collected from the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, does show a high percentage of non-invasive plastic surgery. And as KoreaBang points out, the number does not account for tourists who come to South Korea from surrounding Asian countries for plastic surgery.

Recently, photos of a female sports anchor started circulating on Japanese sites—sites that seem to take particular glee in pointing out Korean plastic surgery. The posts had little to no context other than the woman had radically altered her face. Those were translated into English—once again, minus context—and now large British tabloids are talking about an "unnamed reporter" who "deformed herself." Here's the comparison:


She has a name. It is Won Jayhun. She's a sports announcer, but she's more of a TV personality-slash-model type. In parts of Asia, sports announcers are female and are supposed to be attractive. They're not hard-hitting female news anchors (which certainly do exist in Asia).


Several years ago, Won Jayhun apparently got some work done. But the photos posted of her online, showing how her plastic surgery "ruined" her face are not accurate representations of how she actually looks—even, if they are, oddly, from her Twitter page and date from 2012. The photos were taken from a low angle (remember, angles are important!), and they might have even been run through some sort of digital image manipulation. Who knows.

A refresher on angles:

And here, you can see what Won Jayhun actually looks like:

And listen to her talk for five minutes (she's in the pink dress; the clip is from last year):

Yes, she's probably had plastic surgery. But, the last I checked that was legal. What's more, there are far more extreme examples of plastic surgery in South Korea, Japan, China, the U.K., Brazil, the U.S. that are, perhaps, worth mentioning that whatever she's done to stand out in any significant way.


The only reason it's become a story is because A). The photos are terrible B). People made assumptions and C). It's South Korea. These are the same reason why people mistakenly thought all the South Korean beauty pageant contestants looked the same, because of plastic surgery. They didn't.


Look! Let's be smart. There is a very real conversation to be had about plastic surgery in South Korea. But you know what, it's also a conversation we should have about the U.S.

[Thanks, Sang!]

To contact the author of this post, write to bashcraftATkotaku.com or find him on Twitter @Brian_Ashcraft.


Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.

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