November 21, 2009 08:05
At least 120,000 bottles of Botox were either imported or produced in Korea last year, enough to smooth out the wrinkles of between 400,000 to 500,000 people. And 28,341 cohesive gels were imported into the country to be used in breast augmentation surgery, enough for 14,000 people. Also imported or produced in Korea are hundreds of ingredients used in other cosmetic surgery, including "filler injections" used in adding volume to foreheads and noses.
Recently, cosmetic surgery has been spreading not only among people in their 20s getting ready for marriage or their first jobs, but also among teens and people in their 60s.
Experts say the main reason behind the cosmetic surgery boom is changes in the medical industry. As more and more cosmetic surgeons opened practices after 2000, competitors raced to develop new techniques. Marketing campaigns heated up using celebrities as models, and practically everyone in the industry jumped on the PR bandwagon.
"Public perception of plastic surgery improved after more and more celebrities revealed they had gone under the knife, while advances in surgical techniques have reduced people's fears," said Dr. Joo Kwon of JK Plastic Surgery Clinic in downtown Seoul. "After the Asian financial crisis, the perception spread that people need to be competent in many different areas to survive in the professional world," said Choi Set-byol, a sociologist at Ewha Woman's University. "Physical appearance has become one of the requirements for competency, with people even joking that it is rude for an ugly person not to have plastic surgery."
Behind the increase in cosmetic surgery for teens are changing attitudes among parents. Instead of flatly refusing to let their children have plastic surgery, more and more parents are starting to believe that it is better for them to undergo treatment rather than suffer from an inferiority complex due to their appearance.
Teenage girls want to speed up the process of becoming attractive women, while middle-aged housewives turn to surgery to get their youthful faces back. As plastic surgery becomes more widespread, that seems to contribute to spreading perceptions that beauty equals competence and that plain features will get them nowhere.
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