South Korea, which, as the country with the highest number of plastic surgeries per capita is the country Dr. Christian Troy will most likely flee to when he's caught trying to turn all of his patients into versions of his long-lost partner, is starting to become really comfortable with cosmetic surgery. So comfortable, in fact, that a growing number of men are opting not only to undergo popular facial surgeries such as nose jobs and eyelid "widening," but to speak frankly about having work done.
The Wall Street Journal reports that plastic surgery among South Korean men has become more culturally accepted after President Roh Moo-hyun underwent a widely-publicized double-eyelid surgery in 2005. The procedure, which creates a crease above each eye, is popular among South Koreans who want to approximate a "Caucasian look," which is trendy in South Korea right now because American pop culture is a ravenous monster that craves homogeneity. According to Kang Jang-seok, who runs Man & Nature in Gangnam, southern Seoul, a general demand for bigger eyes and more pronounced noses prompted him to expand his hair-transplant clinic into a plastic surgery clinic, which then morphed into a four-story facility dedicated to completely reshaping men's faces. Though, according to Mr. Kang, patients initially wanted to be hush-hush about their surgery (and, therefore, keep it minimally invasive), South Korean culture has become more accepting of cosmetic surgery, meaning that patients are feeling more emboldened to change their faces, just like in Face/Off, a postmodern movie about the many faces that actors wear.
Another cosmetic surgery clinic proprietor, Dr. Kim Soo-shin, likens the rise in male plastic surgeries to the way men have become increasingly amenable to visiting the salon for a haircut as opposed to the barber shop run by an octogenarian named Ralph who has cataracts and whose scissor hand goes into murder spasms every 100 trims. According to Dr. Kim,
Men used to go to a barber to get a haircut because it was considered embarrassing and unmanly to go a hair salon packed with women, right? But that has changed. It's no longer a big deal for a guy to visit a cosmetic-surgery clinic.
Businesses are beginning to embrace men with an "enhanced look," and a self-esteem crushing survey done for Dr. Kim's clinic, Real for Men, found that South Korean women have become more accepting of men that go under the knife, with 73 percent of the survey's 414 respondents shrugging cosmetic surgery off as no big deal. If that isn't enough pressure to change one's appearance, TV actors and pop music icons are no longer hiding the fact that they've had surgeries, and, as Mr. Kang incisively notes, "Mass media has great influence over people's mindset." (His patients are mostly in their 20s, and often come armed with a photo of a celebrity whose identity they want to graft onto their face.)
Towards the end of the WSJ piece, Dr. Kim waxes philosophical about the current obsession with appearance, linking it to South Korea's speedy 20th century transformation into an industrialized democracy. He explains,
During the incredible change, we sort of fell into narcissism and people want to enjoy the luxury of pampering themselves. The shallow and superficial aspects of our society will ultimately go away as society matures. But it will take time.
For a guy in the cosmetic surgery racket, that's a pretty nifty insight, especially since Dr. Kim, like other doctors and clinicians, is riding a wave of surgical instruments (it's a really dangerous wave) and profiting off of the "shallow and superficial aspects" of their society.
Image via Anna Baburkina/Shutterstock.