{Note: Update} “Korea’s plastic surgery mayhem is finally converging on the same face. Here are the Miss Korea 2013 contestants.” (Photos)

Via Waylon Lewis
on May 24, 2013
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Horrifying, the urge not to be oneself. The New Yorker: “About Face:
Why is South Korea the world’s plastic-surgery capital?”  

Update: From a Reader, with thanks:

  • My reply:  Thanks! That article (above) says make up was half responsible, touching up the other half, for all these women joining into “one glowing, adorable, humanoid Borg,” so that seems to underline the notion that there is an ideal of beauty that everyone is trying to live up to, leaving behind who they are. It’s assumed–in fact it’s the point–of the original take, below, that these women did not look the same, but they (and society) aspire to. 
    Also, the article notes that 20% of Korean women (and far more in beauty contests) have had plastic surgery.

Plastic surgery is, sometimes, helpful. Sometimes, it’s practical. But often, it reflects a profound, and sad, dis-ease with ourselves. Maitri is an alternative, and it’s harder work: we all know folks who are charming, gorgeous…but not because they’re conventionally beautiful. Because of the joy and truth they manifest, from the inside, out.

In relephant news: Chinese man sues wife after ‘ugly’ baby born.

Local perspective, via Reddit:

I live in Seoul.

Relevant link to show how great k surgeons are:


1) You aren’t racist. Those women in fact do look unnervingly similar and yes, Koreans think so too. This is because they all get the exact same plastic surgeries and the surgeons follow the same formulas for noses and eyes and everything else they’ve had done (fillers, cheek and forehead implants, eye surgery, nose surgery, jaw reduction, breast job, calf muscle job, fat grafting etc). Every single one of them has had nose and eye surgery. Those faces cost those girls thousands. Also don’t underestimate makeup, they’ve got it caked on in a similar style.

2). Those are called the Korean plastic face look. In certain areas of Seoul, you would think all the women are sisters because they look so similar due to same surgeries.
Koreans cant tell them apart ether. They’re jokingly referred to as “Samsung Robots”

3). Most korean women don’t look like those women. Not anywhere near actually. Most don’t have the money to fund their body dysmorphia. Some actually have self esteem. Without the plastic surgery, korean women are very diverse looking and easily can be told apart. The surgery takes away their individuality and uniqueness and its sad. Most are beautiful without it but telling them that their korean ethnic features are in fact lovely is as effective as screaming at a brick wall. They wont believe you because they’ve been brainwashed to think westernization of their features is superior, I don’t think they want to look white, but a mix of white and asian and definitely less Korean.

4). Its weird to see the real plastic ones with kids. The kids look adopted. I always wonder how they explain to their kids later on why they look so different, “Don’t worry when you’re old enough we will have a surgeon fix the ugly parts just like mommy did!”. And yes many korean men DO ask for old pics before getting serious about a woman.

Koreans are lovely but this part of the culture is just sad imo because no one ever addresses WHY they feel the need to follow a very narrow beauty standard that can only be achieved through invasive surgery. Especially when they’re beautiful naturally. Sigh

All together now!


Facing all the same way:

Relephant reads:


The Plastification of America

The Importance of Body Love. {Video}



About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | facebook.com/elephantjournal | twitter.com/elephantjournal | facebook.com/waylonhlewis | twitter.com/waylonlewis | Google+ For more: publisherelephantjournalcom


35 Responses to “{Note: Update} “Korea’s plastic surgery mayhem is finally converging on the same face. Here are the Miss Korea 2013 contestants.” (Photos)”

  1. helen says:

    omg, i honestly thought i was looking at 2-3 different girls in different outfits..this is sad!

  2. kiva says:

    How exactly do they pick a winner based on outward appearance when they are all almost identical?

  3. April says:

    1) I can tell them apart if I make a teeny bit of effort, and I bet you could too.
    2) I'm really not into talking down to groups of women about personal decisions they made. You don't want to get plastic surgery? Great, don't. A friend wants your advice? Okay, give it individually. Posting a bunch of pictures of people you don't know anything about and then talking about how it's sad that they have such low self esteem…not cool.
    3)I get that you think its sad that women feel they have to look a certain way, but articles like this also tell women how they should look. Is it okay because you think you're right?

  4. The author makes a strong case against the winning formula face. But the idea that we can be judged according to our look is fundamentally fraud and violent. Women are willing to invest and subject their body to the violence because it leads to recognition, fame and wealth. The first step of remedying this is to abolish all beauty contests – men, women or animals.

  5. Kristin says:

    Hi! Thought I'd offer some perspective. I've been living and working in South Korea for the last 9 months. Plastic surgery is definitely common here and socially acceptable (job applications often request a photo, and many Koreans accept that between two equally qualified candidates, the more attractive one will get the job). In my experience, Korean culture focuses on group cohesion (fit in, do what's socially expected of you, we're all in this together), which is unlike the focus on being an independent individual that I've experienced as an American. And while plastic surgery is popular, Photoshop is probably more so. (For my school picture in the yearbook, they Photoshopped me to be even whiter than I am [I'm pasty!]; looking white is considered to be more ideal because it's considered more Western.) That said, I think you'll find this link interesting. It seems that the Miss Korea competition photos were likely Photoshopped: http://www.thegloss.com/2013/05/02/fashion/miss-k

  6. KMP says:

    Please do your research BEFORE re-posting this information. This "article" was posted on Reddit after a Japanese site had "translated" a Korean article. This is all Photoshop! I am not disputing that some or all the girls have gotten surgery – but you can actually see all the contestants at this site http://kotaku.com/blame-photoshop-for-koreas-beau

  7. Dallas Plastic Surgeon says:

    The point of plastic surgery is not to create an overly homogenous society, but instead, to help individuals strive toward societal ideals. It’s very tricky to delineate between the two in this particular instance. Rather than merely focus on plastic surgery, though, it’s also reasonable to scrutinize the relate effects of hairstyle, eyebrow grooming, makeup, and, of course, photo shop.
    Plastic surgery is very common in South Korea, but realistically speaking, for women this young, rhinoplasty (nasal surgery) is probably the only procedure they have had performed.

  8. Michelle says:

    “Some girls have self esteem” in this context is such a sh***y thing to say. As someone said before, this is like those awful “real women have curves” memes. The intention is clear, and not purposely negative but inherently so.

  9. C'mon, Elephant... says:

    Seems like a solid third of the articles on this site are now lifted from Reddit. Might as well just stick to reading Reddit and stop coming here to read it a second time. Shouldn't a "Journal" be original content — or at least original takes on current topics?

  10. JulesGalloway says:

    Does anyone remember that Groove Armada song from about a decade ago that went… "If everybody looked the same, we'd get tired of looking at each other." I think it just happened.

  11. Tara says:

    Wow! Well, at least they are all pretty…?

  12. Erica says:

    I love this article and am also saddened by the trend in plastic surgery for all women of the world. I have struggled with body dysmorphia for as long as I can remember and it is painful. On a practical note, there are an unusual number of typos in this piece. Very strange for EJ and distracting for the reader. Erica

  13. Jenny says:

    I feel like this is a topic that deserves attention and definitely should inspire some social/cultural criticism. However, I don't think that making fun of these individual women, or calling them names is helpful or kind at all. It is nothing but mean spirited. If your point is to say that these women suffer from body dysmorphia or low self esteem, why would you make fun of them so cruelly? It's heartless.

  14. yes says:

    I think this is photoshop shenanigans. we digital artists can see the same eyebrow, the same eye repasted.

  15. kat says:

    My mom had a boob job done here in the US when I was in middle school (and if I may say so myself, is extremely vain and superficial… sorry Oma!) This neither compelled me to get work done on myself (never have, probably never will) nor did it inspire me toward any quest against plastic surgery. Frankly, I don't much care what people do to their bodies. Want duck lips? Go ahead! Want to have your pre-baby perky breasts back? Can't blame ya!

    But then I looked through a plastic surgery magazine in a plastic surgery office in Seoul. It honestly made me want to vomit. I admit that I had picked up the magazine for shits and giggles, but I got way more than I bargained for–I was utterly disturbed. My mom, whom was waiting for a consultation to get some minor work done on her aging eyes, also got freaked out by the magazine, and nearly walked out before consulting with a surgeon. There were literally diagrams of perfect forehead to nose bridge ratios, the perfect angle for one's nose to turn up ever so cutely, etc. To see the transformation of average-looking Korean woman to "fem-bot," page after page, after a series of invasive procedures, was really unsettling. The way the magazine glamorized and trivialized these changes was even more so.

    Sure, of course not everybody in the general public looks like a K-pop star or a news anchor (just as of course not everybody in the general public in the States looks like a Pussycat Doll or even a Real Housewife), but this is the insane and "ever so attainable (if you have the money and the ambition)" standard of beauty that is impressed upon every generation of Korean women (and men!) who are at all plugged into the modern machine. It's not body dysmorphia, it's cultural dysmorphia.

    And as for the accusations of Photoshop… if it IS the case, which it may be, does it really make the authors point moot? I sat next to a cousin in Korea whom I hadn't seen since she was 4 and I was 13. We were now 15 years older, 19 and 28. She took a selfie of us sitting together and hamming it up for the camera. Afterward, she took out a stylus and immediately and unabashedly began whittling down her jawline, which she felt was too ungraceful and chubby, and then posted it on Facebook. Fifteen years prior, the first time she'd met me, she screamed bloody murder and locked herself in a room because she thought I was a monster. I am half-Korean, half-"American," and my "western" features, which hadn't yet been forced into her consciousness through the mainstream Korean media, were entirely foreign and terrifying to her. Now, unable to afford plastic surgery, she took to altering her digital persona as her parents looked on and approved these changes.

  16. David Ju says:

    Actually, these pictures were proven to look alike because of make-up and not plastic surgery http://www.koreabang.com/2013/stories/miss-korea-

    but its true that S. Korea has a crazy obsession with the idea of a standard beauty type and plastic surgery. Korea has a lot of other issues too: an extremely high suicide rate and extremely low rate of happiness for students in a developing country.

  17. Brandon says:

    Hmmm… Interesting Article. Thank you very much.

  18. Annie says:

    This is misinformation, Waylon. Though the epidemic of plastic surgery in South Korea is a serious issue we should address, truth is more poignant than gossip. Please check your sources. I love elephant journal, but its looking more and more like a women's gossip magazine.

  19. Melina says:

    hmm…these girls don't look the same to me….I have an eye for detail though…they do look like they are all Korean, but otherwise they look different. Here's a recommendation that is slightly off topic and maybe controversial if you don't understand it, but I highly recommend people read the book Deep Nutrition to get a different perspective of what creates "beautiful" features through simply utilizing the wisdom of nature. This is helpful advice for prospective parents because the advice is based on what helps ensure that you have healthy babies, which allows them to also have a perfect skeletal structure (naturally straight teeth, relatively large eyes- in females- with perfect vision, good foot arches, and a hourglass figure for a woman-women are supposed to have larger hips for ease of giving birth). Her book is based on the masterful work of Dr. Weston A. Price.

  20. Berst says:

    they all look same

  21. @ninasalasc says:

    Wow, they are putting the decision too hard for the judges lol
    But I guess those judges aren't shallow enough and they have another features to mark… Not only the repeated outside appearance.
    I come from a country well known for be the country with the most beautiful women and is not a secret that most of them had any surgery on their past… I'm okay with that, but in this case they are making serious and drastic changes to how they look… the worst thing, they fill a standard and they are loosing their individuality. I find this pretty sad.

  22. Frank Carter says:

    It looks like they have the same face features.

  23. satatma says:

    I love it when white people look at Asians and say "how can you tell them apart?"

  24. Jacinta says:

    This is rather scary. To all those who have commented saying "oh think they look different and dont put them down!" you are missing the point.

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