June 01, 2011 11:35
The Seoul Central District Court on May 20 ruled in favor of a woman in a damages suit against the chief of a plastic surgery clinic who had published unauthorized photos of her surgery.
The court said the clinic infringed on the plaintiff's right to likeness by carrying photos of her before and after surgery in a magazine without her consent and ordered the surgeon to pay the plaintiff W10 million (US$1=W1,080) in damages.
Korea leads the world in terms of cosmetic surgery per capita, but most patients have been cagey about their surgery.
Increasingly, however, patients now voluntarily agree to having even quite intimate before-and-after photos published in ads for plastic surgeons.
Why? The main reason is money. Plastic surgery is expensive, and agreeing to model for the ads often more or less covers the cost of the procedure. Breast enlargement or overbite correction costs W10 million. Some clinics have a program whereby patients get free surgery or a substantial discount if they allow the whole process to be photographed and published.
But some patients have other reasons. One 32-year-old woman, who allowed her clinic to publish her photos, said she wanted to show her changes to other women in a similar situation.
One 26-year-old woman posed for before-and-after photos after undergoing massive surgery on her eyes, nose, brow, cheekbones, and jaws last year. "I had a social phobia due to an inferiority complex about my appearance before I underwent the surgery," she said. "By posing for the ads, I wanted to become a role model for people in a similar situation."
One 23-year-old woman had been dumped by a boyfriend who told her he was embarrassed to be with her. "I was angry with him because he rated me only based on my appearance, so I volunteered to pose for photos in the hope that he will be sorry when he sees how I’ve changed," she said.
Other women volunteer to pose for ads with a view to preventing legal conflicts that could occur as a result of medical error. A 34-year-old woman took part in a cable TV program about cosmetic surgery. "I used to have a vague anxiety about medical accidents that could occur during cosmetic surgery, but I was convinced that I'd get a responsible surgeon if I did it in a TV program that shows the entire process."
It is not uncommon to find women who post their before-and-after photos on the Internet even without the sponsorship of clinics.
One plastic surgery forum with about 200,000 members has opened a section for members to post their pictures of eyes, nose, facial contours, and breasts. Members look at other members' photos to give advice and comment on the results.
Lee Seung-yeon, a staffer with a plastic surgery clinic in Seoul’s upscale Gangnam district said, "Many patients aren't as reluctant as in the past to show their changed appearance. Many of them see plastic surgery as part of their efforts to overcome an inferiority complex."
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