Date of this Version
Nakagawa, S. 2021. "Cosmopolitan South Korean Beauty Culture: Paleness, Whiteness and Plastic Surgery in Contemporary Society." Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska - Lincoln.
South Korea is known as the “plastic surgery nation” with most of the clinics concentrated in Gangnam neighborhood of Seoul. Plastic surgery rates for women aged 18-20 are estimated at 33%, with an overall rate of 18% for women of all ages in 2018. Scholars have argued that the prevalence of blepharoplasty (double eyelid surgery), rhinoplasty (nose job), and skin lightening indicates a desire to mimic Whiteness while some scholars and patients suggest operations enhance traditional Korean beauty standard. Utilizing gender studies and cultural anthropology lens, I examine how Western beauty ideals have influenced South Korean body politics and how they are expressed through plastic surgery. My findings indicate that plastic surgery in post-war (1950) South Korea is a direct result of a high value placed on Whiteness rooted in colonial experiences. Today however, beauty standards have transformed to reflect both traditional Korean ideals and distinctly Westernized cosmopolitan style of modernity.