On Cosmetic Surgery

By: Daniel Nardini

One day my wife showed me a number of articles and advertisings in the Korean language media on cosmetic (plastic) surgery. According to her, the whole thing is a big industry. In South Korea, more people get cosmetic surgery than just about any other country (relative to the number of people that is) in the world except Hungary. I found out that not just Koreans from overseas are going to South Korea for cosmetic surgery. Many Chinese, Japanese and peoples from other countries in Asia are going to South Korea for cosmetic surgery. This industry is a multi-billion dollar business. This surgery can range from changing parts of the face such as eyes, nose, ears and mouth, to parts of the body. The point of cosmetic surgery is to make parts of a person’s body look “more beautiful.” In South Korea, most rock stars and actors do this. Some politicians also do this. Because it is popular with so many celebrities it has become popular with so many ordinary people.

Sometimes, according to my wife, it goes further than this. Parents in South Korea have been known to get cosmetic surgery for their children. They may want their kids to have “rounder eyes” or “slightly smaller noses.” My wife explained that one of the most common surgeries in South Korea (and indeed, many parts of Asia) is making peoples’ eyes more round and wider in emulation of eyes of westerners. While many, including plastic surgeons, may extol the virtues of cosmetic surgery, there are also serious problems with it. These include excruciating pain, surgical mistakes, and complete disfigurement. In fact, the number of negative side-effects from cosmetic surgery in South Korea shot up from 1,698 in 2008 to 4,043 in 2011. This is in line with the rate of those wanting cosmetic surgery which has tripled in the last three years. According to my wife, there are two traditional viewpoints running in contradiction of each other in South Korea. There is the traditional Confucian view that altering any part of the body is deeply disrespectful one’s parents. On the other hand, a person is also judged by society by their appearance.

Interestingly enough, many Asian Americans actually find cosmetic surgery to be plain insulting. Many feel that too many Asians are trying to make themselves look “more western.” In my view, I leave it to the individual what they wish to do. In my case, I do not and have never wished for anything that is unnecessary. In my view, cosmetic surgery is not the same as getting an operation to remove cancer, taking out gall or kidney stones, or inserting a heart valve. It is not the same as putting in artificial lenses to save a person’s sight, nor the same as removing an infected puss. Maybe there are people who feel they need to look better than they are, and that is their decision. In my view, I wish to keep what my parents gave me, and leave it at that.

Comments are closed.