South Korea is called the plastic surgery capital of the world, because of the popularity that it has in the country. The Gangnam area of Seoul is considered to be centre of the plastic surgery industry.

According to sources, South Korea could probably have the highest rate of plastic surgery per capita in the world. Another poll conducted by BBC said that about 50% or even higher number of women in their twenties could have had work done on them. While some say that about one-third of women and one-fifth of men in Seoul have had plastic surgery, another said that men almost consist of 15% of the market.

It has even been said that a former President had undergone a double-eyelid surgery while he was still in office.

Due to all such information and the fact that Koreans are so unapologetic about their desire to get plastic surgery, it has become a big stereotype of the country.

Especially when it comes to the media industry, it is almost taken as a fact that everyone there must have gotten facial surgery and that there is no way they are natural.

It has also become a recurring joke (a really insulting and bad one) about how everyone from South Korea gets plastic surgery and that it is given out as gifts even to children and more.

But do we actually know the origins of how plastic surgery got so big in the country, and how it actually got there in the first place?

Plastic Surgery South Korea

Korean War Brought Plastic Surgery To The People

After the Korean War that lasted for 3 years between 1950 to 1953, the United States intervened with aid and occupational forces in order to ‘help’ the country get back on its feet.

In the aftermath of the war, reconstructive surgery and skin grafting to heal severe burns and other birth defects was offered free of cost to victims who got injured during it.

During this time, 2 American surgeons gained prominence for bringing cosmetic surgery to Korean people that would be Dr. David Ralp Millard and Dr. Howard A. Rusk.

Millard, the chief plastic surgeon for the U.S. Marine Corps as part of the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) in 1954 came to South Korea after the war and offered his services to war victims. Apart from that, he also worked on the double-eyelid surgery on Korean citizens who as per sources wished to look more like the American soldiers or ammulate the Western ideal of beauty.

As per Millard, South Korea was “indeed a plastic surgeon’s paradise,” and as per some sources also performed procedures on sex workers or prostitutes in order to make them look “less oriental” and thereby more appealing to US soldiers.

Read More: Korean Movies Are Making The World A Better Place

The American Influence Over Korea

The other surgeon Dr. Rusk had a big hand in creating a connect between America and Korea in not just medical aid, techniques and beauty standard but also the incoming of Korean doctors to the US.

With his ‘Rusk Mission to Korea’ in 1953 he raised funds for medical missions in Korea in partnership with the American-Korean Foundation.

This sent over a steady stream of Korean doctors to US who brought back with them heavy American influences that were not just limited to the medical profession but also racial hierarchy, aesthetics and the need to appeal to Americans.

Apart from all this, South Korea is also an incredibly conformist society where emphasis is laid on everyone looking the same, which has only further increased the popularity of plastic surgery.


Image Credits: Google Images

Sources: The New Yorker, Korea 101, Looking In The Popular Culture Mirror


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