South Korean women have become so immersed in western celebrity culture that double eyelid surgery, which creates the Caucasian crease many Asian women don’t naturally have, has become as common as going to the dentist.
Overtaking Brazil as the plastic surgery capital of the world, South Korea now has the highest number of surgeries performed per capita.
Going behind the scenes of Seoul Fashion Week for Vice magazine’s online series Fashion Week Internationale, host Charlet Duboc uncovers their quest for a stereotypical vision of a western face.
Charlet Duboc asks a young K-pop singer from the band D-Unit why one in five women have undergone some sort of cosmetic procedure in South Korea, which have become popular graduation gifts from students’ parents.
“Because of their distinctive looks, our ideal appearance would be that of westerners,” the singer said.
“Big round eyes, straight nose, round face.”
Eyelid surgery involves cutting the outer end of the eyes to make them wider and rounder, something plastic surgeons say boosts confidence.
Dr. Seo, a surgeon from Seo Jae Don Plastic Clinic, described one of his patients that day, who had flown from Japan to have facial surgery, has small eyes.
He explained: “We will do eyelid surgery, as well as give her a higher nose. She also has a flat forehead so we’ll extract some fat and inject it into her forehead and chin. By doing so her overall profile will look much more appealing.”
Talking Charlet Duboc, a British-born, one-time model, he added: “Most of our customers are eager to have facial features like yours.
“A face with more volume is considered to be more popular these days, having an apple shape face means there’s more chance to change a person’s destiny, they think their fortune will change for the better.
“There are lots of girls who come in after breaking up with their boyfriends…there are doctors who cure the illnesses that we can see; we cure the heartbroken people. There is no need to live with a sense of discontent because of their appearance,” he said.
However, it seems that Seoul Fashion Week is actually trying to distance itself from this K-pop plastic surgery culture.
Charlet Duboc explained that backstage, there were many people who wanted to reverse the trend, favoring a more natural look.
A fashion student born in North Korea and smuggled into the south as a child, who sat next to Charlet Duboc at one of the shows, said “if a person is doing it to boost their confidence by covering up their handicaps I think its fine, but to completely change the way one naturally looks is totally wrong”.
She added: “I see many of my friends getting it done. I think our desire to look as pretty as celebrities is far greater than in any other country.”
A make-up artist agreed, commenting: “I hate people getting double eyelid surgery, personally I like the natural look.”
And a model who had just walked in the show said: “I think Korean beauty is a look with natural eyelids.”
One patient outside of Fashion Week’s culture, who recently had the surgery and was disappointed when Charlet Duboc admired her “natural and unique” look, explaining that her different features, from that of westerners, is what makes her beautiful, said: “My mother would always support me in my quest to look better, my father would be a bit more worried.
“The older generation… think natural is beautiful, being original is better. The importance of beauty is different to each individual.”