Impact of Social Context in South Korea on Individuals' Decisions to Undertake Plastic Surgery

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Why are Koreans so keen on cosmetic surgery?
  3. What does social impact on people’s minds about cosmetic surgery?
  4. The relationship between South Korean entertainment and plastic surgery
  5. Disadvantages
  6. Reference list


After the rapid development of the Korean economy in the 1950s, people who were sharply ignorant of their looks and clothing began to have enough money and time to dress themselves up. At the same time, under the influence of foreign cultures, Koreans began to pick up their own wide face, short nose and small eyes, and the appearance of almost paranoid requirements. An increasing amount of people choose cosmetic surgery to make themselves look more beautiful. As we all know that Korean cosmetic surgery is popular in Asia, and many foreigners will even go to South Korea for cosmetic surgery. However, the plastic surgery that was originally used to help people’s face get better and more pretty, makes everyone’s face looks the same and uniform now in South Korea. People all argued that South Korea is full of ‘artificial beauty, that is, the day after tomorrow completed out. Occasionally, when I meet a woman with a good face, I can’t help wondering if their face has been ‘dressed up. Although this statement is somewhat exaggerated, it fully illustrates the development of the Korean cosmetic industry. Koreans love plastic surgery and love beauty is not fake.

The concept of beauty extends throughout Korea, whether it is a man or a woman. Because of this pressure, South Korea has become the world's famous country for plastic surgery. In this article, I will discuss why Koreans are so keen on plastic surgery and how society impacts their minds on facelifting. Moreover, I will also explore the relationship to South Korean entertainment and the disadvantages of having plastic surgery.

Why are Koreans so keen on cosmetic surgery?

How much do Korean women love plastic surgery? According to the statistics in 2012, about 20% of women aged 19 to 49 in Seoul, South Korea were completely accommodating. Cutting double eyelids is one of the most popular plastic surgery in Korea. People want their eyes to become bigger and look more westernized. Through the rise of the music industry, many Koreans will hold photos of entertainment stars to form their own idols. Even the ‘Bird Uncle’, which has been smashed by the ‘Jiangnan Style’, has reappeared that his record company wants him to have plastic surgery. Moreover, Paul et al. (2017) gave that a ‘face-to-face questionnaire survey’ of 2041 female college students in South Korea showed that 25% of people admitted that they were ‘complete’. Among those who have experienced plastic surgery, 80% said they still want to do it. About 80% of the girls who are not fully accommodated say ‘want to do surgery. (Double eyelid surgery)

Kim is a famous plastic surgeon in Seoul. He said: 'The guests always complain to me that they don't like their faces. They want more western faces, such as big eyes, sharp outlines, and delicate noses. They hate their high cheekbones and small eyes. As early as 2001, when British photojournalist Zede Nelson was shooting wars around the world, he found that he was pursuing an aesthetic based on Western whites. This new aesthetic has transformed into resistance to one's own ethnic identity in Asia (Kim 2003). Some people attribute the Asian shaping trend to one word: big. Bigger eyes, bigger nose, bigger mouth, bigger chest... In short, everything is bigger and better. Orientals prefer big eyes and high noses, which are not available to them. Ironically, in Chinese proverbs, Westerners were once called 'big noses', and this nickname is now a trend.

Some people say that this is because Koreans pursue perfection. Korean women attach great importance to appearance, the guide's mother is already in her 70s, and she had to use at least half an hour making up every time she goes out. She thinks that women do not wear makeup when they go out, but they do not respect others. Korean women usually cover their faces with a mask and a scarf if they don't have time to make up. When I was traveling in South Korea, I noticed that the aunts who are hygienic in the toilets are all neatly dressed, and they are very fashionable. They are dressed more than the Chinese young women in the tour group.

Some people say that because Korean people have high cheekbones and short chins, this type of face is not good, so Korean facial plastic surgery is quite common. Koreans generally have small eyes and sometimes seem to be drowsy, so many people are doing double eyelid surgery while doing muscle surgery on the upper eyelids to make the eyes bigger (Leem 2017). There is a popular saying in South Korea that girls are not beautiful when they are 20 years old, and not beautiful after 20 years old is their own business. For company employees and older men, the biggest distress is the appearance of bags and wrinkles, so male wrinkle surgery is quite popular (Jacobs 2018).

What does social impact on people’s minds about cosmetic surgery?

The first societal impact to cosmetic surgery in South Korea would be the high pressure. Koreans pay too much attention to their looks. Both men and women have strong demands on their external appearance. It’s not just whether you’re being bullied at school, or whether you can find a boyfriend or a girl. It’s also a condition for the company to not hire you. They have the opinion that ‘I am so ugly that I can't find a job, how can I survive?’

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The pursuit of Korean appearance has reached an abnormal level. Some people may not be able to get a job because they are good-looking, but now even the people who sweep the floor look for a good look. According to the survey results of employment preparations conducted by a network recruitment agency in Korea, 98% of the 1264 people said that their appearance has a great impact on employment. At the same time, 94% of the 584 HR companies that selected these applicants People to answer that they will consider appearance factors when recruiting candidates.

Moreover, at the end of 2015, a company in South Korea clearly stated in the recruitment announcement that it requires ‘tempting women and beautiful women above c cup’ and ‘Wisdom and beauty.

Koreans like plastic surgery and more and more people are engaged in the plastic surgery industry. From the perspective of population ratio, South Korea is also the country with the largest proportion of the cosmetic population in the world. But why do Koreans love plastic surgery so much? Some American scholars believe that Koreans have a 'rooted tendency to supremacy.' There are also views that Koreans have an 'inferiority complex in their national consciousness because they have long been a country or a colony. Therefore, they attach great importance to their appearance. Many parents will take him to a facelift in order to let the child win at the starting line, even when the child is still a primary school student. There are also many adult gifts that parents prepare for their children, that is, plastic surgery. These can prove that Koreans are really keen on facelifts, and the whole society is accustomed to cosmetic surgery.

In fact, the birth of the cosmetic industry in South Korea has nothing to do with people's love for beauty, but to help people who are injured in the war. At the end of the Korean War in the 1950s, due to the destruction of many people's faces, several American surgeons came to Korea to help the injured to perform surgery. One of them, Ralph Millai, is mainly responsible for helping patients recover from injury. In the process of continuously helping the injured, he tried to do double eyelid surgery for Koreans. In Korean academic circles, he is considered to be the first doctor to perform the first face surgery in Korea. Dr. Mille believes that making double eyelids will make Koreans more westernized, and by creating a more Western appearance, they will be better integrated into the internationalization, especially in the economic environment that depends on the United States. There are also American scholars who believe that there is a self-racial prejudice in the Korean subconscious, and rhinoplasty and double eyelids can eliminate the appearance of the race. In 1961, South Korea opened its first cosmetic surgery clinic. However, at that time, for the sake of beauty, there were many movie stars and porn industry workers. In the 1980s and 1990s, as the standard of living of the people improved significantly, and they were full and warm, there was energy and money to enhance their appearance, and cosmetic surgery began to become popular.

The relationship between South Korean entertainment and plastic surgery

The entertainment industry in South Korea is very developed and rich in stars, with multiple systems and complete star-making models. Korean entertainment companies will train many trainees to transform them into idol groups or models through different levels of screening and training such as Girls-generation and EXO. However, picking good-looking people is the first step in building a star. Many entertainment companies will even force their artists to do plastic surgery.

South Korea’s cosmetic industry is extremely developed. Many people even try to face up when they are very young, and they want to be like them. The star effect cannot be ignored here. Koreans themselves often say that the vast majority of Korean stars are full of tolerance, so they look very beautiful, and those who adore their idols hope to achieve the same effect through plastic surgery, they want to be as beautiful as their idols. And use the same hospital, etc. Therefore, there are many Korean beautiful guys, and one of the basic conditions for becoming a star is a beautiful appearance. The cosmetic industry has promoted the development of the entertainment industry to a certain extent.


Any surgery is risky, and plastic surgery is no exception. Although cosmetic surgery can help people get more beauty, it still exists risks. With the influx of TV series, the beautiful Korean ‘V-shaped face’ star has become the idol of many Chinese young people. More and more people choose to shape the kingdom to reshape its appearance. According to data from the Korean Ministry of health and welfare, in 2013, the number of medical tourists visiting Korea from China was 56,075, and the incidence of cosmetic accidents and disputes involving Chinese people in South Korea is increasing at an annual rate of 10% to 15% (Kurtz 2019).

Moreover, the sequela of plastic surgery should not be underestimated as well. Once you have completed a plastic surgery, such as double eyelid surgery, you will feel that the eyes become bigger and then do not coordinate with other parts of the face, you will continue to want to shape other parts of the face. In addition, excessive cosmetic surgery will make your face look stiff. Because there is a filling on your face, you have to go back to the hospital regularly to adjust and remedy it. If you don't pay attention, you will be at risk of disfigurement.

Reference list

  1. Baer, D. 2015, ‘Before and after: Patient transformations in the world's plastic surgery capital, Business Insider, viewed 22 September 2015, <>.
  2. Holliday, R. & Hwang, E. J. 2012. ‘Gender, Globalization and Aesthetic Surgery in South Korea’, pp. 4-8.
  3. Jacobs, H. 2018. ‘People have the wrong idea about the 3 most popular procedures in South Korea, the plastic surgery capital of the world, Business Insider, viewed 29 Jun 2018, <>.
  4. Kim, Taeyeon. 2003. “Neo-Confucian Body Techniques: Women’s Bodies in Korea’s Consumer Society.” Body and Society 9 (2): 101-112.
  5. Kurtz, S. 2019. ‘Plastic surgery clients are getting younger—and doctors say selfies are to blame, Quartzy, viewed 19 June 2019, <>
  6. Leem, So Yeon. 2017, ‘Gangnam-Style Plastic Surgery: The Science of Westernized Beauty in South Korea’, Medical Anthropology, vol.36, pp.657-671.
  7. Paul I. Heidekrueger, S. Juran, D. Ehrl,T. Aung, N. Tanna &P. Niclas Broer. 2017, ‘Global aesthetic surgery statistics: a closer look, vol. 51, pp. 270-274.
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Impact of Social Context in South Korea on Individuals’ Decisions to Undertake Plastic Surgery. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from
“Impact of Social Context in South Korea on Individuals’ Decisions to Undertake Plastic Surgery.” Edubirdie, 27 Dec. 2022,
Impact of Social Context in South Korea on Individuals’ Decisions to Undertake Plastic Surgery. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 26 May 2024].
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