Do All The Miss Korea Contestants Look The Same Because Of Plastic Surgery?


It’s no secret that plastic surgery is incredibly common in South Korea. One in five South Korean women undergoes some kind of cosmetic procedure in her lifetime, and blogs like Korean Plastic Surgery chronicle the intense surgeries purchased by many women to fit a certain narrow ideal of beauty.

Hence, it comes as no surprise that the contestants in the Miss Korea pageant, an assortment of those considered “most beautiful” by society, would have eerily similar features, as a Reddit user living in Seoul pointed out in a post titled, “Korea’s plastic surgery mayhem is finally converging on the same face. Here are the miss korea 2013 contestants.”

Indeed, the contestants do look pretty similar, a point someone hammered home by making a GIF of them. Light skin, thin noses, big eyes, and pointy chins reign supreme:


Writes the Reddit user:

“Most korean women dont look like those women. Not anywhere near actually. Most dont have the money to fund their body dysmorphia. Some actually have self esteem. Without the plastic surgery, korean women are very diverse looking and easily can be told apart. The surgery takes away their individuality and uniqueness and its sad….

Most are beautiful without it but telling them that their korean ethnic features are infact lovely is as effective as screaming at a brick wall. They wont believe you because theyve been brainwashed to think westernization of their features is superior, i dont think they want to look white, but a mix of white and asian and definitely less Korean…


…Koreans are lovely but this part of the culture is just sad imo because no one ever addresses WHY they feel the need to follow a very narrow beauty standard that can only be achieved through invasive surgery. Especially when theyre beautiful naturally. Sigh.”

First, I want to correct the supposition that these women are trying to look Caucasian; while it’s easy to look at them and see similarities between their ideal features and those of white people, various commenters on my last post schooled me on the fact that Korea has had these standards of beauty since before they had any contact with white people. So basically, they didn’t need any help coming up with standards of beauty as messed up and narrow as our own.

And I don’t want to assume they’ve all had plastic surgery, although it’s likely that many of them have. (If one in five Korean women gets it, I think the proportion among beauty pageant constants is probably much higher.) It could also be Photoshop and makeup.

I also don’t want to be a cultural imperialist here; as another Reddit user pointed out, Miss USA contestants look eerily similar as well:


Here’s the thing: In any society where women are told that a certain type of look is more desirable than any other, a certain percentage of them are going to try to attain that look. Especially those participating in a looks-based contest like, say, a beauty pageant. And, as technology advances, it’s only logical that they are going to use whatever means necessary (makeup, surgery, probably some Photoshop) to attain that look. So really, nothing about any of these photos should be shocking.

I do think the original Redditor judges the women a little harshly for getting plastic surgery, as if better self-esteem, independent of societal standards, is something you can just snap your fingers and achieve. And it’s obviously someone’s choice whether to shave the bones in their skull or not. (Thanks, science.) But I do wish everyone, Korean, American, and other, was willing to think about trends from a systemic perspective, and at least question for a moment or two why we privilege one nose over another (hint: it’s arbitrary! there is no Platonic essence of noseness out there that you are tapping into!) when deciding just how far they are willing to go to look a certain way. It’s a balance we all have to strike for ourselves. And hey, let’s look on the bright side: the majority of Korean and American women still have not had plastic surgery.

(Via Gawker)


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    • Lastango

      There certainly is a lot of material on the web suggesting Asian women are having cosmetic surgery to look more western. References to Korea, Japan and China are common. Here’s a taste:

      • Megan Anderson

        If yℴu ťhiʼnk Daʼniel`s sťℴry is sℴmhg…, ťo ẃeeĸs agℴ my ḟrid basiċally reċieved a ċheċĸ ḟℴr $9988 pťiʼng iʼn a nťeen hur ẃeeĸ ḟrm hme aʼnd ťheir rme’s mťher-iʼn-la`s neighbur has been dg ťhis ḟℴr 6 mʼnťhs aʼnd gℴt a ċheque ḟor over $9988 parť-ťime On ťhere lapťp. applie ťhe adviċe ať this siťe.

      • Holly

        I was hesitant to “applie” the advice at first, but then I saw all of the decorative accent marks and decided that nothing that fancy could possibly lead me in the wrong direction!

      • lunabell

        It’s not really to look western Some Asian countries have a thing about having their women look “childlike”. Their standard of beauty is more “cute” VS the western ideas of “sexy”

        They like doe big eyes, heart shaped faces and slimmer noses because it looks more “youthful”.

      • Tusconian

        Asian countries have had a lot of these beauty standards for centuries before Europeans had a widespread effect on their culture. A pale face doesn’t mean European, it means “you don’t have to work in the sun all day, so are probably rich” (hence why men in many nonwhite cultures aren’t expected to be pale even when women are; if it was simply “trying to be white,” EVERYONE would want to be pale, not just women). Large eyes are hardly the mark of being European; plenty of white people have tiny eyes, and larger eyes are typical of most Africans and many Asian ethnicities. Are they trying to be black, too? Large eyes are also symbolic of youth; pretty much all cultures consider youth to be desirable. Not saying that Western media influence has nothing to do with it (it does) but it’s pretty myopic to think that Asian cultures were 100% body accepting utopias until the first American TV show broadcast.

      • Ardra Diva

        good post.

    • Tusconian

      There is a snapshot of them floating around out there, where they’re photographed as a group without the stage makeup, professionally done hair, or (almost certainly) photoshop. And while they all fit into the same vague standard of beauty, anyone with eyes could tell each of them apart, and they look nothing like their official headshots. Why is it that when white beauty queens cake themselves in makeup, spend hours primping to not a hair or panty line is out of place, and hire professional retouchers to make themselves look like Barbie dolls in photos, it’s just run of the mill superficiality, and just how pageants are done, but when South Korean women do literally the exact same thing, it’s an “epidemic” of plastic surgery (do we know if any of these women have even had plastic surgery, and if so, how many and how much? No) and the poor foolish Asian girls trying to look white.

      To be honest, this literally is just how pageants are. In American pageants, where there will be competitors of different races, you could put a white, Asian, Latina, and black beauty queen shoulder to shoulder, and they’d still look basically the same, whether or not any of them had surgery, because the pageants only allow a certain look (that’s fairly Eurocentric, but still just as rare among white women as any other women) to progress into well-known pageants, and the style of makeup expected is very heavy and can literally change the way your face looks.

    • odette

      Is this creepy or what? Is like the same face with different hair do’s.

    • Leila Singh

      I suppose if one’s profession is an actress/model/singer etc.. It would not seem out of the ordinary to have (surgery) for that cosmopolitan look! Though I have seen many naturally beautiful Korean women. I say go for the natural look … be thankful for your health/well being this, from a former beauty contestant/part-time model. BTW, are the men accepting of the changes?!!

    • lapetitecollette

      i’m not sure if anyone has touched on this yet: i recently listened to a podcast of “this american life”, where an american english teacher learned that many of the korean high school girls get plastic surgery as part of their preparation for college admittance. korean girls send headshots along with their college applications, and according to them, you will not be accepted if you are not considered “pretty” enough. when the teacher asked what procedures were most popular, they referred to the westernized perception of beauty- fattier eyelids, chiseled jaw and cheek bones, breast implants, etc. it’s apparently more accepted, almost expected, than it is here in the US.

      • Ardra Diva

        What is “western” about “fattier eyelids” ?

    • MUFC2

      HAHAHAHAHAHHA. it’s often hard to tell the difference isn’t it. #plastic

    • McExpat

      I live in Asia (Vietnam) and am shocked to see almost every other woman, no matter how rich or poor, has gotten their noses and eyes “westernised”. They basically don’t look Vietnamese when you add bleached blonde hair. Cheap plastic surgery centers are plentiful and young women succumb to peer pressure, especially when their own mother has been refaced. I try to think about how they must feel about themselves, I guess they must like their new selves? why else would they go through with it? Sad but true. The really scary part is I know of one woman who has gotten her nose done 3 times already and still not happy with it. Yikes! Oh! and I see young Vietnamese guys showing off their bigger eyes too! it is very much accepted if not the norm here in stylish Viet Nam.

    • Ardra Diva

      Darn near every culture north of the Equator (and several below) esteem paler skin for women.

    • josh b

      Nah, they all look the same.