When we spoke about Arci Muñoz’s cosmetic surgery, many still insisted that she made a big mistake. I’ve seen it every time a photo of “new” Arci pops up on my feed. Again, it’s not our business to tell her or anyone what to do with their bodies. But this also reminded me of South Korea’s plastic surgery culture.
Tagged as “The World Capital of Plastic Surgery” by The New Yorker, South Koreans consider the beautification procedures as coming-of-age gifts. One college student said that they go under the knife as early as 19 years old so they’ll have an attractive appearance for a long time. According to News, around 650,000 people go under the knife every year to improve their facial features (e.g. double eye lids and V-shaped jaws) and get breast augmentation. And yes, even men do it.
Several Korean gossip sites and blogs also round up before and after shots of celebrities in their country. Some of them you might even be familiar with.
The practice is so normalized that one Korean man told Al Jazeera that getting surgery is “just like wearing makeup.” It’s mostly accepted in their society, though it also imposes a standard of beauty among Koreans—if you don’t change your appearance at a young age, “your friends will look better than you.” But that’s another topic for a different day.
That said, I wondered: How come a lot of people here, and in other countries, don’t seem to bat an eye about Korean idols who allegedly got plastic surgery, but people like Arci get endless flak for getting a nose job?
Many would argue that South Koreans get a free pass because it’s technically part of their culture. Plus, why would you complain if they looked good, right? But that’s the thing. We impose a certain standard of beauty on certain Asians. There’s now immense pressure for them to look a certain way that most of the time, fans want to know if they really had surgery. Some celebrities even had to prove that they didn’t get their noses done. EXID’s Hani is one example as she did showed a CT scan on live television to quell plastic surgery rumors.
Meanwhile, when Filipinos change their appearances, they’re shamed and told that they looked better before. It’s less accepting, but it still says a lot about how differently we view people in these circumstances.
Take note that Koreans, Filipinos, and every person have control on their bodies and they can do whatever as long as it doesn’t hurt them or anybody. No need to pressure or dictate them on what they should do “to look better.” And I wish many people would remember that before tearing another person down.
Updated on Aug. 20, 2017, 5:53 p.m.
Art by Lara Intong
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