Beauty and Plastics – An Industry Where Capitalizing Off of One’s Insecurities is Normalized

Written by: Aisya A. & Steven S.

Designed by: Daffa Kinanthio

There is one place in the world, a foreign city, where there is an entire district with plastic surgery clinics. That city is Seoul, South Korea.

South Korea is a popular destination for medical tourism, specifically cosmetic surgery. People come from all across the globe to enhance their looks here. According to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS), Korea ranks first on a per capita basis, with 13.5 cosmetic procedures performed per 1000 individuals. Even during the pandemic, cosmetic surgery and skin clinics in South Korea recorded a 10% jump in sales and experienced a miniboom from lockdowns and the shift to working from home. In short, Plastic surgery has integrated into South Korea’s Daily life.

South Korea is notoriously known for its hyper fixation on appearances and cosmetic surgery. Its culture is blinded to a very homogenous view of beauty; pale skin, double eyelids, sharp noses, and small faces. There is extreme pressure for women and men in Korea to conform to beauty standards and spend thousands of dollars to undergo cosmetic surgery. The glorification and obsession of certain standards can cause individuals to feel insecure about their own natural features.

However, the plastic surgery market in South Korea is not only a culture but also an industry worth billions of dollars. Businesses use people’s insecurity and capitalize on those who are affected by the harsh beauty standards, this leads to a normalization of doing plastic surgery when in fact, the associated monetary benefit is not worth it to cover the surgery costs. Journal of Human Capital by Soohyung Lee and Keunkwan Ryu in 2012 found that the critical motive for both men and women to receive plastic surgery in South Korea is for the consumption value rather than the monetary value.

Instead of utilizing plastic surgery as a way to make a fresh start in life or earning a higher income as a result of improvement in beauty, South Koreans undergo plastic surgery to have the “must-haves” perfect face. They are so fixated on it, but they don’t realize that at the end of the day, plastic surgery does not repair someone’s internal feelings of insecurity.


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