My buddy Eric once did a a project on Korea called “The Presentation of Self.” While I’m not sure he really dug that project as much as his other work, the idea was a good one. Korea might be one of the most superficial countries in the world with self presentation being of utmost importance.
I wrote about GAS yesterday, talking about some people’s need to impress others with their equipment. Perhaps most of my pent up anger came from living here. The idea of having to have the best to show you’re the best is one that isn’t mutually exclusive to Korea, however, it is possibly most prevalent here.
It goes deeper. Plastic surgery is as common as cold medication with ads being on every bus, in every station, and just about anywhere else you might imagine. Strategically placed, often in the fashion-able areas of the city or the areas with a lot of high school and university students the percentage of regular clinics to plastic surgery hospitals is lopsided in a way you might not believe. Once going to one, the girls are wined and dined with beautiful workers and before and after photos. The waiting rooms are more luxurious than the best of hotels. The sad part is, after the surgery is over the patients are shuffled off into army style cots in shared rooms that look like they belong in the dingiest of Seoul motels. The wining and dining is over.
People have asked me why I label a lot of my new photos with “여자들”. It simply means, girls or women, but the connotation is far from simple.
One girl once told me:
” Being a Korean girl is spending an entire life figuring out which mask to wear and when.”
“Do you ever just take off the mask altogether?”
“Would a diver take off their mask? They would drown, right? Die? I think I would also drown.”