The Plastic Obsession in K-POP and South Korea

Elly Zulaikha
June 2, 2020

We’re taking a closer look at the obsession with plastic surgeries that are so prevalent in South Korea, K-POP has become one of the main influences that show beauty is everything, not just for many South Koreans, but apparently, worldwide too.

Dress and look the part

Image via wallpaperscave

Imagine the pain and hardships K-POP idols have to face, as, without some form of cosmetic assistance, it's difficult to remain relevant in the fiercely competitive industry where having good looks on top of possessing a set of skills are only qualified to be in the game. 

A majority of K-POP idols have gone under the knife in some way. There are some enhancements here and there, while some looked completely like a different person if compared in their 'before debut' and 'after debut' looks.

Image via channelkorea

Some famous examples of K-POP idols who've admitted or believed to have plastic surgery include Jennie and Lisa of BLACKPINK, Irene of Red Velvet, Kai of EXO, JooE of Momoland and the list goes on. 

While we could only speculate until they acknowledge this, we can't agree better that with every comeback for K-POP groups/ K-POP idols, they get 'mysteriously' more beautiful and handsome than before.

A look back in history

Image via asiancosmeticsurgery

Before we see perfectly sculpted faces of K-POP idols, plastic surgery in South Korea has been a popular medium since American plastic surgeon, Dr. Ralph Millard, came to South Korea in 1954. Initially, he was there to help treat accident and burn victims, however, the surgeon took a step further and his "help" was considered the first-ever recorded double eyelid surgery by Korean academic journals.

Image via gardenofphilodemus

Back then, Millard's breakthrough was intended to help those find better economic opportunities through creating a more Western look in his patients. As the surgery became widely known, "double eyelid" surgeries have been commonly sought after by many Koreans.

When society demands perfection

Image via scmp

If Western beauty emphasizes physical body beauty, then in Korean society, looks can largely determine your personal and professional success. 

The cosmetics industry in South Korea is known as the “plastic surgery capital” of the world. With more than 600 clinics in Seoul only, at least 14% of South Korean women and especially in their 20s with a rate of 30%, have undergone some form of plastic surgery. Men in the country have sought plastic surgery too, but women continue to be largely affected by the beauty pressure. 

Image via businessinsider

The idea of looking perfectly beautiful is deeply ingrained in Korean society, that many young girls were pressured to undergo surgery after finishing school. From family members to employers at work, having "natural beauty" is a prized thing to have above anything else. Even at the cost of death as a result of surgery gone wrong (a small fraction of cases happened), this doesn't stop them from achieving corrective beauty through surgery.

However, not everyone who went under the knife for cosmetic purposes, as some do so for other reasons such as birth deforms or accident scars, a practice that is common and widely performed by plastic surgeons.

Image via kpopmap

Beauty and appearance have always been the epitome of physical perfection one needs to have, or so that’s what society has set. History has shown how beauty requirements evolved throughout the centuries, and where we’ve seen all sorts of crazy and sometimes dangerous ways that were born in the name of beauty. 

There's no denying that K-POP has helped with the spread of achieving beauty and perfection through plastic surgery as evident in most good looking K-POP idols we've seen throughout the years. But it's also important to learn that no matter the beauty standards society has set on all of us, believe that we're all perfect just the way we are.