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Body and Seoul

2005/11/10 Source

Asian Girls Turn to Plastic Surgery for Korean Beauty
By Gordon Fairclough

South Korean actress Song Hye-kyo enjoys huge popularity among in Seoul and in Asia. As economic standards improve an increasing number of young ladies opt for plastic surgery in South Korea.

Cate Siu is from Hong Kong, but she's a fan of South Korean television shows and she keeps up with gossip about Korean celebrities on the Internet. Her favorite is a beautiful soap-opera star, Song Hye-kyo, whose bee-stung lips and feminine features she admires.

"Korean actresses have prominent and elegant noses", says Siu, a 25-year-old aspiring actress. "They look so pretty".

So, when Siu decided she'd have a better shot at breaking into the entertainment business after improving her looks with a surgical makeover, she knew where she wanted to go. In April, she flew more than 1,000 miles to a clinic here for operations to raise the bridge of her nose, make her eyes appear larger and sharpen her chin.

Across Asia, South Korea is cool. From fashion to music to film, the country of 48 million people is redefining style. And as notions of Korean beauty become popularized by the country's exploding cultural exports, women from around the region - and some men, too - are flocking to Seoul to have their faces remodeled.

"A lot of my patients bring a picture of a Korean star from a magazine and say 'I want to look like that'," says Chung Jong Pil, a surgeon who runs the Cinderella Plastic Surgery Clinic in a fashionable Seoul neighborhood.

Dr. Chung estimates that just under 10 percent of his customers come from overseas; the rest are locals. Most of the foreign visitors come from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, he says. Jung Dong Hak, a surgeon who specializes in rhinoplasty, or nose jobs, at another Seoul clinic, says roughly 15 percent of his patients are foreign. That number has been rising in the past few years. "The increase has been very big since the Korean Wave started", he says.

The trend says a lot about Korea's own image makeover. Not long ago, many people saw the country as a decidedly uncool industrial park pumping out cheap cars and appliances. But that started to change in the late 1990s, when the Korean government decided that entertainment could be an export industry. The film business in particular benefited from government help and private capital.

Star Power

South Korean TV actress Han Ye-seul. The popular actress recently went throught a plastic surgery as many other actresses do.

Now, countries from Japan to Singapore are flooded with South Korean hip-hop and pop acts, melodramatic soap operas and movies from horror flicks to romantic comedies. Korean pop star Boa outsells Britney Spears in Japan. In 2004, Chinese television stations carried more than 100 Korean shows.

"I think Korean actresses are pretty. Because of Korean plastic-surgery techniques, they have a very soft, graceful style", said Lee Bingping, a woman from Foshan in southern China who visited Dr. Jung's clinic last year "If you have the money and the resources, you should try to look as good as possible".

Surgeons Capital

Just how common these procedures have become is hard to track but the number of surgeons performing image-enhancing work has increased sharply. The Korean Society of Aesthetic and Plastic Surgery, a professional group, says its membership has risen 85 percent to 960 since 2000. Another group, the Korean Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons, lists 1,300 members. (California, with a population of 34 million, has 864 plastic surgeons, according to the state medical board.)

"All the buzz and atmosphere makes young people today think [surgery] is common", says Lee Yihsiu, who runs the Taipei office of International Plastic Surgery, which matches up foreign patients with Korean surgeons. "Korean pop culture has made plastic surgery fashionable".

The above article is from The Wall Street Journal.

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