Spirit goes a long way here.
A parting thought: There was a case a year or so back when a good handful of influential gentlemen were caught on house camera repeatedly beating and sexually assaulting a girl. The footage was seized by some rather more shadowy gentlemen whilst in transit from one police station to the other. The tapes were never seen or heard of by a police force again. According to a random man in the street, no security personnel were ever questioned as to the event. Random men in the street often know more than you think.
Why is South Korea the world’s plastic-surgery capital?
“We want to have surgeries while we are young so we can have our new faces for a long time,” one young woman said.
If you want to feel bad about your looks, spend some time in Seoul. An eerily high number of women there—and men, too—look like anime princesses. Subway riders primp in front of full-length mirrors installed throughout the stations for that purpose. Job applicants are typically required to attach photographs to their resumes. Remarks from relatives, such as “You would be a lot prettier if you just had your jaw tapered,” are considered no more insulting than “You’d get a lot more for your apartment if you redid the kitchen.”
South Koreans do not merely brood about their physiognomy. They put their money where their mouths—and eyes and noses—used to be. By some estimates, the country has the highest rate of plastic surgery per capita in the world. (Brazil, if you want the title you’re going to have to lift a few more rear ends.) The United States has sagged to No. 6, though we still have the greatest total number of procedures. It has been estimated that between one-fifth and one-third of women in Seoul have gone under the knife, and one poll reported by the BBC puts the figure at fifty per cent or higher for women in their twenties. Men, by one account, make up fifteen per cent of the market, including a former President of the country, who underwent double-eyelid surgery while in office. Statistics in this field are iffy because the industry is not regulated and there are no official records, but we’ll get to that in a grimmer paragraph.
In January, I spent a couple of weeks in Seoul’s so-called Improvement Quarter. This area is in the high-end Gangnam district, the Beverly Hills of Seoul. I realized that getting stuck in traffic would give me more worry lines, so my translator and I took the subway, which is equipped with Wi-Fi, heated seats, and instructional videos about what to do in the event of a biological or chemical attack. The walls of the stations are plastered with giant ads for plastic-surgery clinics, many picturing twinkly cheerleader types, sometimes wearing jewelled tiaras and sleeveless party dresses, and often standing next to former versions of themselves (“before” pictures)—dour wallflowers with droopy eyes, low-bridged noses, and jawlines shaped like C-clamps. “This is the reason celebrities are confident even without their makeup,” one caption read. “Everyone but you has done it,” another said.
You know you are in the right neighborhood by the preponderance of slightly bruised and swollen-faced men and women in their twenties and thirties going about their business, despite the bandages. Another clue: there are between four and five hundred clinics and hospitals within a square mile. They are packed into boxy concrete buildings that look as if they were all built on the same day. (The area consisted largely of pear and cabbage farms and straw-roofed houses until it was treated to its own speedy face-lift in preparation for the 1988 Seoul Olympics.) Some clinics occupy as many as sixteen floors, and the largest encompass several high-rises. Most are more modest. Tall vertical signs in Korean jut from the buildings and overhang the sidewalk like unwrapped rolls of surgical tape. They advertise the names of the clinics, several of which my Korean friends translated for me: Small Face, Magic Nose, Dr. 4 Nose, Her She, Before and After, Reborn, Top Class, Wannabe, 4 Ever, Cinderella, Center for Human Appearance, and April 31 Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. There is also a maternity clinic that specializes in beauty enhancement for brand-new mothers and mothers-to-be.
My translator, Kim Kibum, agreed to pose as a potential patient, and I tagged along with him as we went from one clinic to another, conferring with doctors about possible ways to remodel ourselves. Kibum, a professor at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, visiting his family in Seoul, is thirty-one. He is not considered young for cosmetic surgery, which, like computer coding, competitive gymnastics, and Trix cereal, is for kids. A typical high-school graduation gift for a Korean teen-ager is either a nose job or a blepharoplasty, also called a double-eyelid surgery (the insertion of a crease in the eyelid to make the eye look bigger), which is by far the most common procedure performed in Korea.
“When you’re nineteen, all the girls get plastic surgery, so if you don’t do it, after a few years, your friends will all look better, but you will look like your unimproved you,” a college student who’d had a double-eyelid procedure told me. “We want to have surgeries while we are young so we can have our new faces for a long time,” another young woman said. That is no longer a possibility for me, I’m afraid.
#teen #mean #young #daddiesgirl