Koreans' Plastic-Surgery Obsession Baffles Tourists

Tourists cite the obsession with plastic surgery among Korean women as the most puzzling characteristic of the country's contemporary culture.

Cosmojin Tour on Thursday said in a straw poll of 384 tourists, 48 percent named plastic surgery as the aspect of modern Korean culture they found hardest to understand.

"Many tourists who visited the Gangnam or Itaewon districts of Seoul tell their tour guides that Korean women are beautiful but ask why they look and dress the same," said a Cosmojin Tour staffer. "For many foreigners, who value individuality and uniqueness, it seems surprising to see Koreans so obsessed with plastic surgery to boost their appearance."

According to the survey, 27 percent of tourists were also for some reason puzzled by trash bins in public bathrooms, and 16 percent cited the penchant for high heels and inserts to increase height.

But they were impressed by the fast Internet connection speed as well as round-the-clock food delivery services, reverence toward older people and the omnipresence of karaoke rooms.

Among inconveniences, the biggest was tour guides pressuring tourists to buy goods in a particular store on their itinerary. "We need to train professional tour guides as we greet more than 10 million tourists into Korea each year," the tour company owner said.

englishnews@chosun.com / Mar. 15, 2013 11:31 KST