Eyes Wide Shut
Whether it's to get a better job, a better life, or just a better look,
Asians are increasingly turning to plastic surgery. Sometimes, they
get the looks of their dreams; but sometimes, it can be a living nightmare
I Don't Like My...
It's never been easieror cheaperto satisfy your vanity. Here are some of Asia's most popular cosmetic indulgences
It wasn't too many generations ago that South Korean kids had no control over their looks. Their hair, for example, was considered a gift from their parentsnever to be cut. But today, kids drop into the plastic surgeon's office after school, and when they get home their folks can barely recognize them.
As in the rest of Asia, South Korea's primary cosmetic obsession is with the eyes. Having bigger eyes is every girl's dream, and it can now be realized through a simple $800 operation, in which a small incision or suture is made above the eye to create an artificial double lid. Teenagers as young as 14 are doing it, and eye jobs have become a favorite high school graduation gift from proud parents.
Clinics are busiest during winter vacations, when high school seniors are preparing themselves for college or for entering the workplace. The majority come for the eyelids, but nose jobs are also becoming popular among teens. "Teenagers are plastic surgery experts," marvels Dr. Lee Min Ku, a Seoul surgeon whose patients are mostly in their teens or 20s. "They tell the doctor, using scientific words, which surgery method to use." But despite the medical knowledge they bring to the clinics, many teens still show their age. "They end up handing you a magazine," says Lee, "and asking for T.V. star Kim Nam Ju's eyes."
Park Sang Mi's parents were against plastic surgery until her older sister came home one day with bigger eyes. Park followed suit last year, her parents approved, and she took a part-time job at Baskin Robbins to help them foot the bill. "Now I know nobody will laugh at me for being ugly," Park says gratefully. Her boyfriend knows her eyelids are altered, she adds, but he absolutely loves them. Park, now 20, doesn't have plans to return to the clinic immediately, but wants liposuction performed on her thighs some day. Meanwhile, she's considering her friends' advice to trash her old photographs.
South Korea is even more competitive than it is conservative. And with so many young people having themselves remade, parents are afraid their children will fall behind, not just academically but aesthetically. "Parents make their kids get plastic surgery," says Dr. Shim Hyung Bo, a plastic surgeon practicing in Seoul, "just like they make them study. They realize looks are important for success." Which means that in today's Korea, getting your eyes done can be easier than getting the keys to dad's car.