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She was simply gorgeous. Yup…movie star quality.

I knew right away her eyelashes were false, but they gave her a dreamy glamorous look. And her flawless face was enveloped in luscious black curls that could have only been obtained with a dozen hot curlers. She was sitting on a couch feeding her baby a bottle. This was ten years ago at a holiday party at a friend’s house and that was the first time I met Emily [name changed to protect identity]. A Korean woman married to a white guy who was also a mother to two children.

No surprise, we bonded instantly, what with having a shared heritage, going through motherhood at the same time and all — the connections were palpable. Emily had attended The Fashion Institute of Technology, and opened a bridal design business. She was au fait with respect to beauty and design. She knew the secrets of make up, and as I am a beauty culture addict, she became my guru

One day when my daughter and I went over to her house for a play date with her older son, I brought over a WSJ article which revealed that calf-shaping was fast becoming a popular plastic surgery option in South Korea. I thought the procedure sounded grotesque and a bit extreme. I’ve heard of fat being sucked out, but muscles being removed to form more shapely calves seemed over the top. She didn’t seem surprised at all. Over Korean seafood pancakes, she confided in me that she herself went through excruciating pain to obtain her own double eyelids. She said her older sister held her hand during recovery.

Double eyelid surgery is quite common in South Korea. Double eyelid surgery is a plastic surgery procedure which involves cutting the outer end of the eye to make them wider and rounder while creating an extra fold on the eyes to mimic those of Westerners.

Before and After Double Eyelid Surgery [and Rhinoplasty as Well?]

Before and After Double Eyelid Surgery [and Rhinoplasty as Well?]

I remember my relatives pushing me to get one when I was there on my last visit. They were very open in telling me that they thought my eyes were too small and that I would look prettier with bigger eyes. They would have had no problems telling me to lose weight too if I had been overweight. I was shocked that they had such a narrow standard of beauty. Basically these were the facial features Koreans sought in women: white, pale skin untouched by sun, large round eyes, a high bridged nose, and a narrow jaw line. At that time I was only twenty, but I was quite used to my face. Conformity was not high on my list. This probably has a great deal to do with my American upbringing.

But I never judged Emily for her double eyelid surgery. Or even for her nose job which she never fessed up to, but which I guessed a while ago. And I suspect she had gotten a nip and tuck after her second child because she came over for a Fourth of July pool party wearing a skimpy brown bikini, nearly putting the models of Sports Illustrated to shame. Women put on make up to look prettier so why can’t they have plastic surgery for the same reason? As long as it doesn’t become a lifelong obsession as in the case of poor Michael Jackson.

While it’s possible to take advantage of the scientific, technological, and medical advances, it’s still a bit sad that so many young women in South Korea feel the pressure to look perfect. A lot of South Korean girls are given double eyelid surgeries as graduation presents. Other popular procedures include rhinoplasty and jawlines being narrowed.

Jawline Before and After Surgery

Jawline Before and After Surgery

To them, no biggie. It’s as ordinary as buying a new outfit. But they sure do seem to put a high price on physical attractiveness in that little peninsula. So proud, in fact, it is even common practice for people to attach a photo of themselves on applications if they’re seeking a job or applying to a university. That would be almost unheard of here in the United States unless you were looking for a job as a model or an actor.

One in 77 Koreans have had a tuck, peel, jab or lift. In the capital city of Seoul, 20 per cent of women aged 19 to 49 admitted to enhancing their looks with surgery. Even Miss Korea 2012, Kim Yu-Mi, openly admitted that her good looks aren’t all natural.

~ The Sun

Miss Korea 2012

Miss Korea 2012

These figures makes South Korea the plastic surgery capital of world if you take into account population, beating out countries like Greece, Italy and even the United States. If you discount the population, the U.S. still has the highest number of plastic surgery procedures at 3.11 million.

While in one Asian country, South Korea, women seek balanced perfection. In another, they look to create imperfection to “enhance” their charm. In Japan, forever on the cutting edge, teenage girls are flocking to their dentists for a procedure called ‘yaeba’ — get this — to temporarily or permanently elongate their canine teeth. Make ‘em less perfect. Less! Japanese men seen to think it makes a woman appear cuter, younger and adds sex appeal. Why couldn’t this trend pop up in the States so parents could save thousands of dollars in orthodontic bills???

Before yaeba

Before Yaeba

After Yaeba

After Yaeba

So interesting what people will do for beauty around the world. I wonder what the Elephant Man would say.

“Curiouser and curiouser,” said Alice.