At first glance, the images of the contestants in the 2013 Miss Korea pageant seem like a trick of the eye: Wait, are some of these the same person with different hair? At second glance, it's clear that there are different women in each photo, but they have very similar features.
The pictures of the Miss Korea contestants have gone viral over the past 48 hours, showing up on a Japanese blog, then Reddit, and now major international papers. It's obvious that people are stunned, mesmerized, intrigued and incredulous by just how much the contestants look alike. ShenTheWise who originally posted images of the women on Reddit wrote: "Korea’s plastic surgery mayhem is finally converging on the same face."
As previously discussed, South Korea is the country with the highest per capita rate of plastic surgery in the world. One in five women in Seoul have undergone some kind of procedure. In January, when the Korean Plastic Surgery Tumblr went viral, studying the "after" images lead to the conclusion that the "best" face, the optimal look, is one with wide eyes, a pointed chin and a narrow nose.
As one young lady from Singapore who flew to Korea for a nose job (she's already had her eyes done) writes:
“I didn’t do surgery becox people say i look ugly… I didn’t do surgery becox anyone told me i am ugly. I mean, sometimes people (especially people online *stares*) do tell me i am ugly lol. But that’s not why i did surgery.
I did the surgery for myself. Becox i want to have a nicer nose…
I just wanna say that i don’t think i look ugly before lah! I look decent, and especially with makeup and all, everyone can look pretty. Okay, not everyone, most people, with makeup, can look good. But i still choose to do surgery becox i wanna be even better-looking. That’s all.
Let’s say i am a 65/100 before surgery. That’s not BAD-BAD. But there’s absolutely nothing wrong if i want to do something to make me a 75/100. This is also a form of self-improvement and i am sure everyone is up for that.”
We can only assume that attempts at self-improvement is why the 2013 Miss Korea contestants look so similar: All of the ladies are slender, all of the chins are pointy, all of the noses are narrow, almost all of the eyes are flat on the bottom and round on top, like a half-circle. Cosmetic surgery template?
While this incredibly narrow definition of beauty is unnerving, it's not something Koreans have cornered the market on: Take Victoria's Secret 2012 What Is Sexy? list. Most of the women named were skinny, blonde, with big eyes, narrow noses and wide smiles. And it's not just VS: Over the past few years, the covergals on American ladymags have been a homogenous bunch, and the high fashion runways in New York are not very diverse. Even though we're a nation populated by folks from different countries and of various ethnicities, the women elevated to fame and fortune — the ones chosen to market fashion and beauty products, the ones we, collectively, as a nation, have deemed beautiful — have a very definite, uniform and similar look.
What makes us gravitate toward such limited notions of beauty? Why do we reject one chin or nose shape and embrace another? And when it comes to the Miss Korea pageant, what does the winner have that the other women don't? Do the losers head back to the drawing board — on the operating table? And even more important: Why is being beautiful — not compassionate, smart, strong, creative, funny, trustworthy or kind — the best thing a woman can be?
Has Plastic Surgery Made These 20 Korean Beauty Pageant Contestants Look the Same? [Daily Mail]
Miss Korea 2013 Contestants Spark Plastic Surgery Debate [IBT]