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.”
Josh, I am really enjoying what you are posting here. Both written and photographed.
Thank you, Alan.
I’m surprised that there’s no more wining and dining after the surgery. After all, wouldn’t the plastic surgeons and clinics want repeat business? I’ve been told that plastic surgery can be addictive with some people continually seeking changes and/or enhancements.
The pressure to appear perfect or appealing must be immense in some parts of Korea where plastic surgery is prevalent. I’ve always wondered what things would be like for the children of a woman whose physical appearance has been significantly altered…
Angelina, the patients are generally only in the “recovery” rooms while wearing off the effects of the anesthetic. They are generally sent on their way still groggy, but well enough to get home. I believe the repeat customer has very little to do with the wining and dining after the person has already went through the first surgery. It is in the initial stages of deciding to do the first surgery where they may be most likely to leave.
I suppose, children like the rest of Korea are desensitized to any type of appearance change. At least, on the surface.
I see… Once they have gotten past the first time, many of them are probably in for the long run.
Someone just introduced John Frankenheimer’s movie “Seconds” to me. The film brings plastic surgery – if it is even possible at all to make such drastic physical changes – to a whole new level.