Korean Celebrity Plastic Surgery – An Overview

In Korea, where plastic surgery and celebrity culture go hand in hand, Korean celebrity plastic surgery is a career must-do for rising stars.

Korean celebrity plastic surgery is a hot global news topic. Over the past few years, South Korean celebrity before and after pictures have been featured in most major online newspapers, as well as numerous English language gossip blogs. While Western media simply can’t get enough of Korea’s uniquely enthusiastic attitude to cosmetic improvement, what role is plastic surgery playing in home grown Korean pop culture?

Back in Seoul, the boom in Korean celebrity plastic surgery is being fuelled by the many singers, actors, actresses and models who have undergone surgical procedures. Attaining a symmetric, camera ready look is now a ‘must’ in South Korea’s competitive entertainment industry; the pressure exerted on Korea’s ‘new wave’ of stars to get plastic surgery was even satirized in one K Drama episode.

Gangnam plastic surgery

Pictured above, the Gangnam District of Seoul – known as the city’s ‘Mecca’ of cosmetic surgery – has long been the go-to area for suspected Korean celebrity plastic surgery patients such Park Min Young, Kim Ah and SNSD, to name a few. This partially explains why Gangnam clinics have become extremely popular among young K Pop and K Drama fans, who bring in photos of their favorite idols for their surgeons to literally ‘copy’ in the OR.

The country’s medical tourism industry has also benefitted from the success of high profile Korean celebrity plastic surgery cases. Many Asian-Americans now fly to Seoul from the United States to fulfil their plastic surgery needs, although China is the reigning King of South Korea’s medical tourism market, having long been seduced by K Pop culture.

Korean Celebrities With Plastic Surgery

celebrity plastic surgery korea

The willingness behind Korean stars’ readiness to undergo plastic surgery is three fold. Firstly, the South Korean cultural mindset pertains towards perfectionism and collectivist behavior. Stars with surgically altered features are the new norm, and fans automatically expect their favorite celebrities to possess a set of culturally desirable, although occasionally artificial, facial features.

Secondly, South Koreans attach folkloric significance to certain facial characteristics. One of the most popular procedures undertaken by South Korean stars with plastic surgery is double eyelid surgery. In South Korean culture, the ‘double’ fold traditionally connotes prosperity and success – qualities that celebrities, with their relatively short shelf lives, may certainly wish to hang onto.

Lastly, there are career-related issues for celebrities to consider. Some famous patients have been advised by their management teams to undergo procedures in preparation for the spotlight, making Korean celebs’ plastic surgery as much of a career move as a confidence boost.

Blurring the lines further, some ordinary citizens have managed to achieve internet fame on account of their Korean plastic surgery results, which are known for being dramatic, impressive and – occasionally – extreme.

Myths surrounding K-Pop surgery

One of the biggest myths is that Korean celebrities’ growing interest in plastic surgery stems from their quest to emulate the appearance of Western stars. One example of this opinion comes from a Western doctor:

“Another common problem in South Korea and other Asian areas is the growing will to look ‘western’. This results in a high number of patients having eye surgery to make their eyes bigger, like European eyes.” (Source)

Such assumptions have sparked controversy from South Korean and Asian commentators. Euny Hong – a well-known Korean author and one of a handful of Korean celebrities without plastic surgery – believes such opinions are misinformed, stating “It’s self-serving indignation on the part of Westerners.”

In our increasingly interconnected and global society, it is quite possible that ‘Caucasian’ aesthetic preferences have influenced those in South Korea, and vice versa. However, as one Korean-American puts it, “We just want bigger eyes. It is generally known that bigger eyes are more attractive.”

Popular Korean celebrity plastic surgery procedures

The most commonly spotted Korean celebrity plastic surgery procedures include double eyelid surgery, Asian rhinoplasty and jaw reshaping. As the South Korean standard of beauty becomes ever more specific, the list of Korean celebrities who have had plastic surgery has continued to grow.

Korean celebrity plastic surgery cases are regularly shared on YouTube, Tumblr and Weibo, yet most of the popular South Korean and Asian celebrities who have had surgery in Korea have, for the large part, elected to ignore the rumors or even deny the fact that they’ve had plastic surgery.

Botched Korean celebrity plastic surgery

park bom chin surgery botched

Park Bom’s infamous chin procedure. Source: All K Pop

Plastic surgery doesn’t always turn out well – even for celebrities. A growing number of botched Korean celebrity plastic surgery failures have been spotted on homegrown stars as well as celebrities from Japan and China who have traveled to South Korea for procedures. While some transformations have been marred by challenges, forcing some to admit they’ve had a little help, others have kept a dignified silence. Regardless, any Asian or Korean celebrity who did plastic surgery will inevitably face a storm of internet gossip as well as a renewal of interest in their star power. Some Gangnam clinics have claimed responsiblity for several successful Korean celebrity plastic surgery cases, although it is difficult for ordinary patients to ascertain what’s true and what isn’t.

Despite the horror stories, the list of Korean celebrities with plastic surgery continues to grow, with many famous plastic surgery veterans electing for additional procedures throughout their careers.