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Photo of Korean beauty contestants sparks plastic surgery debate

By JohnThomas Didymus     Apr 26, 2013 in Lifestyle
A Japanese blog raised a controversy after it suggested that Korea's plastic surgery craze may be transforming the country's beauty pageants into a parade of clones.
The blog, Live Door, posted photos thought to show Miss Korea 2013 contestants all spotting strikingly similar looks. The photos were then uploaded to Reddit by user ShenTheWise with the caption, "Korea's plastic surgery mayhem is finally converging on the same face. Here are the miss korea 2013 contestants."
The photos sparked a debate on Reddit although it was uncertain whether the almost identical features of the contestants were the result of surgery, makeup or Photoshopping.
Kotaku, however, later revealed that the contestants shown in the Live Door photos were not participants in the Miss Korea 2013 contest but contestants in the Korean Miss Daegu 2013 contest, who would go on to participate in the Miss Korea pageant.
Kotaku argued that the photos which sparked the debate look "processed to hell and back," and concluded that the contestants wore their make-up in a similar style and that the images were Photoshopped to make the contestants faces and smiles identical.
The Miss Daegu 2013 contestants: Photoshopped?
The Miss Daegu 2013 contestants: Photoshopped?
However, Gawker writes that regardless of the authenticity of the photos, the consensus is that the popularity of plastic surgery in South Korea is forcing a convergence of the facial looks of Korean women as they struggle to fit into the mold of narrowly defined standards for what is considered attractive. The subject sparked an online controversy about South Korea's "plastic surgery problem" in connection with statistics quoted by the Economist that South Korea has one of the highest rate of plastic surgeries per capita in the world.
According to IB Times, although the US has the highest total number of plastic surgeries performed in recent years, South Korea has the highest rate of cosmetic surgery per capita.
Redditors debating the "plastic surgery problem" in Korea agreed that the women looked "eerily" similar.
Redditor "HotBrownie," who claims to be Korean, assured fellow Redditors that their observations about the "unnerving" similarity of the girls was not racist.. He writes: "You aren't racist. Those women in fact do look unnervingly similar and yes, Koreans think so too. This is because they all get the exact same plastic surgeries and the surgeons follow the same formulas for noses and eyes and everything else they've had done... In certain areas of Seoul, you would think all the women are sisters … due to same surgeries … They're jokingly referred to as 'Samsung Robots.'"
Some Redditors argued that "westernization" of the standards for judging beauty in contemporary Korean society is wiping out natural Korean ethnic looks.
A Reddit user "forevertravelling" commented: "I live in Korea, and older women complain how girls don't look Korean anymore because of all the plastic surgery. It's so common to the point if I meet a girl, I just assume she has had something done. Girls here consider eye surgery just like using makeup."
Redditor "HotBrownie" added: "Without the plastic surgery, Korean women are very diverse looking and easily can be told apart. The surgery takes away their individuality and uniqueness and it is sad."
Jezebel contributing to the debate, refers to a Tumblr called Korean Plastic Surgery which features "before" and "after" photos of Koreans who have undergone plastic surgery. The photos, some of which Jezebel thinks may have been photoshopped, illustrate the streamlining of features in Korean society under the pressure to conform to narrowly defined standards of good looks.
According to Jezebel: "Eyes are larger. Noses are less wide, more streamlined, narrower. Having a bridge in the nose seems very important. Square or prominent jaws are made delicate, V-shaped, smaller. Clicking through, it's obvious that there is indeed one specific way that is considered the best way for a woman to look, and it's a cross between Belle and Chinese actress Fan Bing Bing."
The website concludes: "What's really unnerving is the push towards uniformity. Instead of celebrating quirks or camouflaging flaws, these photos show a burning desire to fit inside a very narrow scope of what's seen as beautiful."
Jezebel also comments on the potential social impact of extreme streamlining of facial features. What happens to those who are unable to conform, especially people of different racial or ethnic stock? How would narrowing of a population's looks through artificial means impact on race relations in the future? Would all humanity be forced to converge to a narrowly defined standard? And which culture will impose its standards on the rest of the world? The Western culture?
A Redditor pointed out that the trend is not only in Korean culture. The Redditor notes that the same observations could be made about Miss USA 2013 contestants, whom he claims also look remarkably similar. He concludes: "Even in a country as diverse as the US you'll see a lot of similar looking women in these pageants because there's a certain aesthetic they're looking for (styled or shopped) that changes with what's considered attractive to that particular culture at that point in time."
More about Miss Korea 2013, Miss Daegu 2013, Plastic surgery
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