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.