Last Updated 27 Jul 2020

Reshaping Cultures

Category Culture
Essay type Research
Words 1470 (5 pages)
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9 October 2013 word count: 2075 The Reshaping of Cultures Section Three: Plastic Surgery Aspects of one's culture are shaped by personal experiences, household traditions, and by one's national beliefs. How sensitive the topic of cosmetic surgery is, differs by culture. South Koreans now widely accept plastic surgery as a part of their culture. This movement has sparked widespread criticism from people around the world. Many people either can't comprehend the idea, can't get past the cultural barrier, or can't accept the adequate reasoning behind it.

However, the reasoning is quite imple and should be accepted universally; Personal satisfaction and happiness are important factors to one's well-being, and if improving one's appearance can critically boost one's self-esteem, then taking advantage of the technologies we have today like plastic surgery should be an acceptable option to remedy low self-worth and low self- esteem. Every culture has some different idea of what is considered beautiful. In the past when people lived in less diverse-looking societies, the standards of beauty typically were defined by features that weren't common amongst their own ommunity.

As time flowed, certain places became more ethnically and culturally diverse than others, and in those places ideas clashed and standards changed, resulting in a more open community with ideal beauty being more subjective. However, there are places that still aren't so diverse. In these places, the conception of what is considered ideal beauty is more predominantly accepted and can be linked heavily to historical and cultural roots as well as how influential and persistent the media is in that particular society.

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Although South Korea has been experiencing esternization since the Korean War, the country is still a generally homogenous nation, meaning that the demographics are still mostly Korean. South Korea is a country where the old meets the new and where traditions go hand in hand with modern ideas and technology; this goes for beauty as well. In ancient South Korea, having certain features could define not only ones ancestral past, but also ones future.

In an article explaining the marriage of cosmetic surgery and ancient customs, Lee Su Hyun explains that, "Physiognomy, or the art of face reading, has een practiced for centuries in Korea - as well as in other Asian countries - as a way of divining a person's future" (Lee par. 8). In addition she proposed that, "Koreans also believe that personality is reflected in a person's facial features and that they [their facial features] are shaped by fate, genes and lifestyle" (Lee par. 9). This belief still persists today and many Koreans experience social pressures because of it.

A South Korean mother explains that her daughter, Lee Min-Kyong, a 12 year old ballet dancer, lacks confidence: "Everyone, she says, points out her small eyes. It's why she doesn't think she's a pretty girl" (Lah par. 3). Her mother added, "I'm having her do it pretty to get ahead" (qtd. in Lah par. 7). Although her daughter didn't ask for the surgery, Min-Kyong is looking forward to it: "I'm excited. I think I'll look better than I do now,' she says shyly, breaking into a small smile" (Lah par. 5).

Foreigners may consider these social pressures to be offensive and superficial, but to South Koreans they are not; these pressures are Just another everyday-custom. Korean media, especially the Korean pop (K-pop) scene, has also been shaped by these social ressures which state that beauty is important. In K-pop, the most successful and famous idols perfectly fit what Koreans consider beautiful, near perfection. These idols are a part of every aspect of the media because of that. Unlike the western counterpart in which he or she is known for what he or she does best, a single Korean idol can be known to partake in a multitude of positions.

It is very common to find a single idol being an actor or actress, a model, a musician, a singer, a dancer, a show host, a reality show celebrity, and a comedian. They are the role models of ociety, and, as a country where there is a pressure to look beautiful, many younger South Koreans enw and aspire to their features: "They all have small faces, large eyes, and tiny button noses. Chins are pointed, cheeks are wide, and their faces glow artificially, imbuing them with the anime quality' (Stone par. 15). Sure those features flaunted perfection, but there was a catch; those features aren't commonly or traditionally Korean.

As revealed by netizens, this beauty was the work of plastic surgery. South Korea is very technologically advanced and "is the most wired in the orld, with the highest rate of smartphone usage 67 percent and 95 percent of Korean homes having internet access" (Stone par. 23). Rando Kim, a professor of consumer science at Seoul National University, suggests being so Wired' contributed to the trend of plastic surgery: "Celebrities have helped to drive the trend [of plastic surgery], as they scramble to keep ahead of digital technology that mercilessly exposes not only their physical imperfections, but any attempts to remedy them "(Choe par. ). He clarifies that, "Wide-screen and high definition TV put pressure on hem [celebrities] to look good in close-ups, and with the Internet, where people like to post 'before' and 'after' pictures, they can no longer hide it [having undergone plastic surgery]. So they go public, often talking proudly about it on TV" (Choe par. 8). Although "before the K-pop boom Korean youth already were being brought up on a diet of surgery "(Stone par. 21), Dr.

Park Sang-hoon, head of ID Hospital, notes that ordinary South Koreans are now more open about the idea because their idols are open about it: "It used to be all hush-hush when mothers brought their daughters in or a face-lift before taking them to match-makers, now young women go plastic surgery shopping around here" (Choe par. 10). This shift towards a nation-wide open-mindedness for plastic surgery relieved many South Koreans. However, what was a relief within the country, sparked ethnocentric criticism from the international audience.

Today in South Korea, cosmetic surgery is a social norm: "South Koreans have more plastic surgery than any other nation according to figures released in January. Those in the Asian country have more treatments per members of the population, with one in every 77 turning to the knife or needle" (Nolan Par. 2). One thing that seemed to bother a lot of critics was not only that statistic but also what Koreans were getting done, which in many articles regarding the matter is western. This idea seems absolutely outrageous, false, and offensive to many people especially of Asian descent.

Dr. Joo Kwon, head of JK Plastic Surgery Clinic, and Dr. Kwon Seung-Taik, a plastic surgeon at Seoul National University Hospital, both agree: "While critics often argue that Koreans are adopting a more Western ideal of beauty, both Kwon and Joo disagree, saying that the standards are universal" (Kim par. 1). Kwon supports his position, mentioning something he read a while back, " Two love letters,' he says, Written 5,000 years ago, from China and Greece, respectively, both describe their lover as beautiful, with a pointed nose and large eyes" (qtd. n Kim par. 43). He also said, in defense, "We have Westerners coming in to cut down their nose to a smaller size does that mean they want to look Asian" (qtd. in Kim par. 44)? If one were to look at the before and after pictures in detail of Asians that have undergone cosmetic surgery, one can effortlessly notice that the features don't esemble any specific features only Westerners or Caucasians have nor are they any particularly non-Asian. What emerged from this stalemate didn't do the situation justice, though.

What all this type of criticism came down to was Just the obscuring of what mattered the most, how alleviated the patients were after undergoing their surgery. Although Min-kyung was only 12 years old and didn't make the decision herself to get the surgery, "for Min-Kyung, the 20-minute surgery has been well worth the cost and post-surgical discomfort. A few weeks later, she and her mother email to ay she's happy with her new look. And when this 12-year old stares at herself dancing in the studio, she no longer Just sees her eyes. She sees a prettier girl" (Lah par. 17).

Especially at that age, confidence is very important. With Just that minor surgery, her increase in confidence, even if increased by Just the slightest bit, will help her progress not only through her difficult teenage years but also thereafter. In another article, which criticizes the shift towards the acceptance for plastic surgery in South Korea and explains the supposed dangers associated with that shift, a omen's experience is shared: "Chang Hae-Jin, 21 , an art student who was self- conscious about her slightly protruding teeth and chin decided to take that risk with Dr. Park.

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