History of Plastic Surgery in Korea - Why is it So Popular?



History of Plastic Surgery in Korea - Why is it So Popular?



History of Plastic Surgery in Korea

Plastic surgery majorly advanced in the 20th century, when the casualties of the war made reconstructive plastic surgery a necessity for many injured soldiers. Extensive facial and head injuries caused by modern weaponry were treated through innovative reconstructive surgical procedures. It brought many innovations, and these skilled surgeons dedicated their practices to restoring soldiers' grave injuries. It was during this time that surgeons realized the potential influence that appearance could have on one’s experience in life. Aesthetic surgery took its own place, and a greater understanding of infection prevention and anesthesia followed.

While many of these medical advances originated in Europe, after the liberation of Korea, people were more affluent and interested in the pursuit of beauty. In 1945, reconstructive plastic surgery was unheard of. It was when the U.S. military medical personnel participated in taking care of war casualties. U.S. Army surgeons, Dr. Millard and Dr. Stenstrom performed plastic surgeries, but they were not in Korea long enough to expand it.

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When Korea’s economy rapidly grew, so did the medical industry. Increased awareness from military surgeons to overseas Korean students increased the need for plastic surgery specialists in Korea. Yoo Jae-Deok began performing plastic surgery in Korea in 1961. This led to the beginning of plastic surgery knowledge, education, and training in Korea.

How Common is Plastic Surgery in Korea?

It is estimated that one in five South Koreans has had some kind of plastic surgery, whether it is going under the knife or aesthetic procedures such as fillers. The most popular plastic surgery procedures are double eyelid surgery, rhinoplasty, and liposuction.

Why is Plastic Surgery So Popular in South Korea?

Plastic surgery is an integral part of daily life in South Korea. It is extremely prevalent, especially in Seoul, also known as the "Plastic Surgery Capital of the World." Plastic surgery advertisements are on subways, buses, streets, applications, and more. They are in the form of posters, electronics, and announcements. With over 500 clinics just in Gangnam, advertisements are bound to be everywhere. Plastic surgery is also easily accessible. You can find numerous apps, blogs, YouTube videos, or just go inside one of the hundreds of clinics on the streets.

Korean parents will often gift plastic surgery to their children as a form of graduation present after high school. Some job applicants get plastic surgery or procedures to improve their chances of finding a job. Job candidates have their pictures on their applications, and they believe that a youthful, attractive appearance can enhance their chances of success. 

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In 2020, the Seoul Metro decided to phase out plastic surgery advertisements in subway stations. Moreover, companies and government agencies started to implement blind recruitment, where job applicants do not have to attach their photos to resumes. 

South Korea maintains a more accepting attitude toward cosmetic operations than certain Western countries, which stigmatize such procedures. Many South Koreans see cosmetic surgery as a way to empower themselves and improve their appearance. Improving one's looks may increase self-confidence and self-esteem, which can have an impact on interpersonal interactions and professional prospects. Sharing experiences and freely discussing plastic surgery operations are popular, which helps to lessen the stigma attached to the practice.

Frequent exposure to plastic surgery may be the reason why it is so widely accepted, but what is the root reason for the prevalence of plastic surgery in Korea? Many believe that this is due to Confucianism. While practicing Confucian ancestral worship is not as common, the Confucian principles have profoundly influenced Korean culture. Among them is Korea’s conformist society. Collectivism is strongly felt in Korea, so everyone wants to look similar.


How Important is Appearance in Korean Society?

In Korean culture, appearance is very important. Why? This is because many people are influenced by the media from an early age. The majority of individuals in Korea frequently admire attractive celebrities and influencers. The threshold for beauty standards has been raised since this has become the norm. When you watch TV or programs, appearance is frequently the punchline or a hot topic of conversation. There will be discussions on how big or little people's heads are, or when a famous person is mentioned, remarks regarding their attractive appearance are made. When the topic of beauty is brought up so frequently, you cannot help but start to take note of other people's features and feel pressure to alter your own.

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What do South Koreans think about Plastic Surgery?

The stance on plastic surgery is pretty understandable when you consider the intense cultural focus on looks. Many South Koreans think that to a certain degree, cosmetic surgery is acceptable. The general attitude toward plastic surgery is favorable. People struggle with anxieties and complexes. People who lack confidence can overcome it through plastic surgery. Many individuals believe that if medical technology exists that allows you to improve certain parts of your appearance, then why not? Many people who have plastic surgery experience positive changes in their view on life, including increased confidence and optimism.

Why Korea is Known for its Plastic Surgery Industry?

High standards: To guarantee high standards of safety, quality, and ethics, the Korean government strictly supervises the plastic surgery sector.

Skilled surgeons: Plastic surgeons in Korea are highly trained and renowned for their skills, particularly when it comes to operations that improve facial characteristics.

Advanced techniques: Korea is renowned for its use of robotic surgery and 3D imaging in plastic surgery.

Accessibility and affordability: Plastic surgery operations in Korea are frequently more readily available and less expensive than in other nations. It has become a well-liked location for medical tourism as a result.

Cultural acceptance: Physical attractiveness is highly valued and considered to be a key component of both social and professional success in Korean society. As a result, cosmetic surgery is now widely accepted as a way to improve one's look.

Popularity among celebrities: Several Korean celebrities have openly disclosed their cosmetic surgery experiences, which has elevated the appeal of the procedure.