Saturday, July 09, 2005

Blast on Plast from the Recent Past

NOTE: This is a slightly edited repost of something I wrote on AsiaPages before Jodi switched from Blogspot to Typepad and eradicated her entire old blog. I find out while doing an ego search. It was in response to a post about a Korean CEO wanting to hire Caucasians, I think, which had morphed into the topic of Koreans getting plastic surgery to look Western. This was one of my earlier ventures into blogging, so it's close to my heart.

just several comments that will make my post seem willy-nilly...

koreans getting surgery are not to make themselves look white or western, but to make themselves look different or exotic. when 30% or fewer have double eyelids and 70% or more don't, then surgery would favor the double eyelids or the bigger-looking eyes. it is not about looking western. if people were really to make themselves look truly like someone of european descent -- which is possible -- people would freak out upon seeing her or him.

the jaw and cheekbone shaving is more common than before because of the same reason: a narrower face is considered more delicately beautiful than a wider face. this is not an attempt to look western, either. many koreans look at kathy ireland and think, 'oh my god! how could americans look at that huge jaw and think she's beautiful?!'

white skin being considered beautiful skin is also a concept that predates exposure to the west by centuries. rather than chastising koreans who seek to clarify their skin by removing brown blotches or freckles (which is one of the purposes of the whitening creams), it is insulting to assume that they are giving up their koreanness in favor of a western ideal of beauty. it seems that the people who are so willing to jump to that conclusion are the ones with the inferiority complex.

and that, too, is a good example: freckles. what can be more western-looking in korea than freckles? yet koreans will go to the ends of the earth (or at least the face shop or the department store) to get rid of them. no, the korean ideal of beauty is about having clear whitish yangban skin with interesting slightly exotic looking features. that this coincides a bit with caucasian looking features does not a racist conspiracy make.

now koreans with corn rows on the other hand...

jodi, when people were shocked or in awe that you hadn't had plastic surgery, it was most definitely not an insult. people here don't think it's cool to get plastic surgery, they just think it's acceptable or even normal. what they think is cool is when you can look beautiful without having had any. for what it's worth, take it as a compliment. or at the very least, don't take it as an insult. life in korea is hard enought without searching for shit when it's not there.

as for affirmative action in the states being a justification for this kind of hiring practice in korea, well, at least in california, koreans and other northeast asian groups (e.g., japanese and chinese) and even vietnamese now, i believe, are no longer beneficiaries of affirmative action and haven't been for quite some time. it is simply no justification for doing it here.


At 7/12/2005 8:09 PM, Anonymous Mark said...

So what do you make of Koreans with corn rows who won't give you the time of day unless you're black?

At 7/12/2005 11:26 PM, Blogger nora sumi park said...

they're wannabes. they think korean culture is too uptight and rigid. black culture, or what they think is black culture, like what is embodied by hip-hop, seems to be as opposite that as you can get. why date a white or kyopo nerd if you can have a strapping black man?

this is all speculation (except for the identity crisis part).

At 7/12/2005 11:27 PM, Blogger nora sumi park said...

i should add that some half black and half korean pop stars have made all things black cool to many kids.

blue-eyed blonds are out. sorry. try again next year.

At 7/29/2005 11:57 AM, Blogger lirelou said...

Good take on the reasons why Koreans (and many other Asians) go under the knife. Early western views on this were forged by James A. Michener, whose novel on post-war Japan commented on what he saw as a Japanese rage to look "western". What he ignored is that in addition to the factors you mention (the desire to look upper class in tremendously class conscious societies), Asian cultures tend to have specifically articulated ideals of beauty, and those who don't meet those standards are wont to resort to surgery. In Vietnam, the feminine ideal of beauty was set down in the national poem (Truyen Kieu). I remember hearing of an old Vietnamese bachelor who had remained so because no women he had ever met matched that ideal.

At 8/09/2005 1:32 PM, Blogger hardyandtiny said...

Sure, many western women wish they had the skin quality of a Chinese woman and many Chinese women wish they had the full eyebrow of a western woman. There just examples.

Nothing wrong with cornrows or dressing a certain way.

At 8/19/2005 11:06 AM, Blogger hardyandtiny said...



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