A few years back I wrote an article asking whether you could identify a persons race by by looking at their facial structure. To my surprise it’s consistently been the no. 1 viewed page on Randomwire ever since, racking up over 250 comments and much controversy. One of my observations was the growing propensity for South Korean women to get so-called “double eyelid surgery“, a type of cosmetic surgery where the skin around the eye is reshaped in order to create a western style upper eyelid with a crease from an eyelid that is naturally without a crease (a.k.a. “single eyelid”) as most Asians have naturally.
Recently VICE magazine took a look at the phenomenon as part of a report into Seoul Fashion Week. It comes at a timely moment when image-obsessed Korean popular culture, known as Hallyu, has frequently been in the pages and on the screens of many western media outlets over the past few months, spurred on by the global success of PSY’s ‘Gangnam Style‘ K-Pop music video.
Here are a selection of some of the more interesting pieces:
- The Verge – K-Pop takes America: how South Korea’s music machine is conquering the world
- The New Yorker – Cultural technology and the making of K-pop
- Foreign Policy – The Gangnam Phenom
- CNN – When fans go too far
In the search for a stereotypical western face, spurred on by the seemingly perfect images of the Korean Wave stars, South Korea has become the plastic surgery capital of the world with the highest number of surgeries performed per capita – about 1 in 5 women have undergone some form of procedure which have even become popular graduation gifts given by parents to their children.
It’s a fascinating mix of popular culture, music, economics, fashion and political soft power tinged with a rather grim objectification of young people (women in particular) which has placed enormous pressures on them to look a certain way – whatever the cost.