I've probably touched on Korean obsession with the aesthetic more than any other topical issue in this here blog, but I'm going to do so again. Here are the first two paragraphs of one student's Free Topic essay from my Saturday class - I've actually been completely buried in essay-marking over the last week as I'm spending about an hour on each and some require a great deal of attention. Anyway, this one caught my eye...
I have lived with dissatisfaction about my small eyes. Some friends around me solved their dissatisfaction early. There are some friends who had plastic surgery when they started the high school as a present from their parents. There are other friends who had plastic surgery in order to come closer to their dream. When I say that I will have plastic surgery in the future, my friends each react differently. There are some friends who criticize my opinion, but also those who agree with my opinion saying that they will also have plastic surgery someday. I agree with someone who has plastic surgery in order to become more beautiful.
Lookism is rampant in our society where we live now. Of course, many people think Lookism is a big problem and it should be solved. A lot of people have said we shouldn't judge people by the way they look, but most people do. So, I think it's better to change our appearance than to expect the change of our appearance-oriented society. One of the ways of change many people choose is to have plastic surgery. Plastic surgery can help not only to boost one's confidence, but also provide many chances to lots of people. Also, it can help to enjoy a happy life by growing love for yourself.
I'm not sure when I decided to have plastic surgery, but I have pledged to have it. When I was young, I wondered why so many people were trying to become prettier, but now I know why many people try to become prettier. There was an opportunity to change my thinking. I have a friend who didn't have good looks but was kind-hearted. She never talked to her favourite boy once because she was not confident about her looks. However, she had plastic surgery when she entered the high school. Finally, she was confident about her looks, so she told me she was confident enough to confess to her favourite boy. According to my friend's story, plastic surgery can help people to be confident about his or her looks and be brave.
She goes on to offer this suggestion:
It's wise to change appearance to fit the social trend rather than criticize inequality unconditionally, which is difficult to solve.
Anyway, there is one series of plastic surgery advertisements I've seen a number of times in subway stations around Seoul that catch my eye in an early ipod advertisement kind of way. They seem to suggest, in turn, that:
1) Going to Grand Plastic Surgery will allow you to get into a bikini this summer, rather than a one-piece.
2) Going to Grand Plastic Surgery will make your face look like a Korean Traditional Drama mask with a V-line as opposed to a "lantern jaw".
3) Going to Grand Plastic Surgery will give you courage to raise your hair-up and expose your newly reconstructed face.
4) Going to Grand Plastic Surgery will attract men who can afford a Tiffany engagement ring.
I do understand that these young almost-women need to operate to some extent within the confines of this society, but I'm dismayed at how many of them seem uninspired to make change. Of the 22 essays I received last week, 7 were about cosmetic surgery, and 5 were in defense of it. Only one was even able to recognize the larger issue at work here - that every young girl (or parents of a young girl) who gives-in to the pressure, simply increases the perceived "need" for the surgery in the first place. The fact that this student takes ownership of her "dissatisfaction about (her) small eyes" without once acknowledging the external forces that presented the idea in the first place, simply makes me sad.
I wish I could post a photo here to show you what a lovely person this young writer actually is - small eyes and all - but that would be an invasion of her privacy, and it wouldn't really mean much, because to really know who she is, you'd have to meet her in person and see what's on the inside.