Korean Beauty Pageant Or Clone Parade?

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If Stepford had a beauty pageant, it might have looked like Miss Daegu 2013.

“Korea’s plastic surgery mayhem is finally converging on the same face.” – This caption to the above picture by blogger ShenTheWise fuelled a firestorm of speculation that the Korean plastic surgery craze is causing these 18 different women to look like clones.

Keen eyes spotted bad airbrushing with Photoshop, which could have accounted for the stark similarities (down to the same smile) we see in the picture montage. Others argued that any group of pageant participants, no matter which country, tend to fit a certain aesthetic or narrow ‘standard’ of beauty, as seen in the Miss USA contestants.

Same Stylist? Same Surgeon?: In case you’re wondering, they’re not the same person. These Miss USA beauty contestants show uncanny resemblance to each other even though the country is ethnically diverse. 

 

It remains a well-known fact that South Koreans have more plastic surgery than any other nation, says data released in January. Last year, 20 per cent of women aged 19 to 49 in the capital city of Seoul admitted to going under the knife. Moreover, plastic surgery is no longer a woman’s pastime. Men are getting their faces restructured in large numbers as well. That’s not counting K-Pop influenced medical tourists from China, Japan and Southeast Asia crowding the clinics in Gangnam (the Beverly Hills of Seoul) hoping to take home a little ‘Gangnam style’ for themselves.

So back to the question: Could South Korea’s fascination with plastic surgery be contributing to this eerie phenomenon in flesh and blood? Reddit user HotBrownie, who claims to hail from Seoul, seems to think so: “Those women in fact do look unnervingly similar and yes, Koreans think so too. This is called the Korean plastic face look.” In fact, they are jokingly called ‘Samsung Robots’ or ‘Gangnam Girls’ in Korea.

 

“With great power comes great responsibility.” That should hold true for cosmetic surgeons wielding the scalpel too: Before-After pictures (from kpsurgery.tumbler.com) depicting such extreme makeovers of real Korean women who have undergone radical plastic surgery are rampant on the Net. Do you notice the similarities post-surgery (the typical rounded almond eyes, the ubiquitous tiny and sharp V-shaped chin, the same softly sculpted cheeks, that plump but delicate lips, plus the must-have slim and highly defined nose) as if they manufactured on the same porcelain doll factory line? 

 

SKIN spoke to Dr Tan Ying Chien, Consultant Plastic Surgeon from The Sloane Clinic Plastic Surgery Centre, for an insider’s view on the curious case of cookie cutter beauties in the cosmetic surgery mecca of the East, South Korea.

 

In your opinion, how does surgery cause this ‘clonal’ effect?

In Korea, plastic surgery is more widely accepted by society. Korean patients are also generally more willing to undergo highly dramatic changes which will involve extensive surgery in multiple areas, as compared to patients elsewhere. When plastic surgeons are free to create the ‘ideal’ look, and when the exact same formula is repeated like a cookie cutter to radically transform a face into one with the ‘perfect’ (albeit similar) eyes, nose, forehead, cheeks and chin, this can potentially result in horrifying hordes of ladies looking like long lost siblings.

 

With the current Korean Wave, do you see women bringing in photos of a certain celebrity, asking you to replicate the look? And which celebrity feature is most requested for?

Vast majority of my local patients do not come into the office requesting to look like any particular celebrity. Actually, most simply want to look like a better version of themselves and tend to be more conservative where surgery is involved.

Occasionally, I do get requests for a celebrity-inspired surgery, usually from younger patients and the celebrity feature du jour changes from time to time. I take it more as a guide to explore what their personal preferences may be. At the same time, we’ll have to assess if the patient has realistic expectations. Ultimately, doctors need to use their clinical expertise and aesthetic judgement to help our patients achieve a harmonious result that would enhance their beauty; rather than piecing together Song Hye Kyo’s nose and Angelina Jolie’s lips together like a jigsaw puzzle. It just doesn’t work that way, since every face is unique and overall facial harmony and proportion are crucial factors determining facial attractiveness too. I advise against chasing the entire look to the point that it might create an identity crisis at Immigration as well. Even if it is technically feasible in that case, the person may have deeper issues that need to be looked into.

 

So while the desire to look beautiful is universal, the lesson learnt is this: Don’t die a copy. Be you, just better – it’ll suit you best!

 

“Today you are you, that’s truer than true. There’s no one alive who’s you-er than you” – Dr Seuss.

 

– By Emily Wong