I write frequently in this space about ethnic cosmetic surgery because of my abiding interest in the topic. As a Filipino-American, I am mindful of the many ways that politics, culture, and shifting standards of beauty inform the various nonwhite patients who visit my Los Angeles facial plastic surgery offices. Recently this NYT story caught my eye: titled “In South Korea, Plastic Surgery Comes Out of the Closet,” the article details the many ways that cosmetic surgery has taken Korea by storm.
The statistics are remarkable:
Cosmetic surgery is not covered by national health insurance, making it difficult to determine the exact size of the industry. A survey last year by the Seoul city government found that 31.5 percent of residents 15 or older were willing to undergo surgery to improve their looks. In 2007 the percentage was 21.5.
In a 2009 survey by the market research firm Trend Monitor, one of every five women in Seoul between the ages of 19 and 49 said they had undergone plastic surgery.
The article goes on to detail the extraordinary fact that despite such widespread acceptance of cosmetic surgery, it was only recently that anyone felt comfortable talking about their own “work” in a public forum:
“It used to be all hush-hush when mothers brought their daughters in for a face-lift before taking them to match-makers,” said Dr. Park Sang-hoon, head of ID Hospital. “Now young women go plastic surgery shopping around here.”
Now, reasonable people might disagree about whether this is a positive or a negative development. I am generally of the mind that cosmetic surgery is a personal decision, and that any stigma associated with enhancing your appearance should be replaced by understanding and acceptance. That said, these numbers do feel unusually high, even to an experienced Los Angeles cosmetic surgeon like me.
Feel free to add your comments below. I look forward to engaging my patients and colleagues about these developments in the months ahead.