Summary: Plastic surgery in South Korea is a booming business. This may or may not lead to some pretty stiff plastic surgery competition behaviors, where plastic surgery patients go under the knife so they don’t lose ground to their competitors. This raises some good questions about plastic surgery motivations and why people should or should not get plastic surgery. At the end of the day, of course, it’s up to you—and that’s good. In fact, you’re the only person it should ever be up to.

plastic surgery competition

Getting in on the Plastic Surgery Competition

As the world becomes smaller, thanks in large part to globalization, it also gets more competitive. Think about it this way, the more you know about your friends on Facebook (and how much fun they’re having), the more envious you get. If your Facebook friends take a great vacation, you want to take an even better vacation. That’s the way competition works. So it shouldn’t be that surprising that there are some areas of the world where that same competitive spirit is applied to something else, something like plastic surgery. According to some recent reports, plastic surgery competition in South Korea is skyrocketing.

South Korea was already a country where plastic surgery was incredibly popular. Though their population is only something like 50 million people, almost one million plastic surgery procedures were performed last year, meaning one out of every fifty people in South Korea has likely had plastic surgery. South Korea, after all, has among the highest density of plastic surgery patients in the world. This means that there’s also plenty of advertising and marketing of plastic surgery. This is especially true in Seoul, where one can see plastic surgery billboards on the subway, commercials on television, and adverts in magazines. It’s all over the place.

Plastic Surgery as Gift

Indeed, CBS News highlights one twenty year old woman who, upon graduating from high school received a gift of plastic surgery from her parents. This type of gift, it turns out, isn’t terribly uncommon, even though it might be somewhat scandalous here in the United States. But the woman highlighted in the story was worried about her future, about her career prospects, and about how looking “old” might dampen her ability to get the job she wants or advance in the career of her choosing. This isn’t necessarily to say that South Korea is somehow more shallow than the rest of the world—simply that there’s a lot of competition out there.

To be sure, we’re not a big fan when someone feels pressured into getting plastic surgery. Whether you’re getting a breast augmentation in Seoul or plastic surgery in Englewood, NJ, you should be going of your own free will and not to impress anybody else. But there’s no getting away from the fact that we don’t judge ourselves in a vacuum. We compare ourselves to each other. Otherwise all of those posts on Facebook about great vacations wouldn’t bother us so much.

Keeping the Pressure Off

Because South Korea is experiencing such a boom in plastic surgery and because no many people are getting procedures done, there is a little extra pressure and a little extra competition. On the plus side, there are also fewer judgments made against those who do go under the knife. There’s less stigma. That isn’t always the case in the United States for example (though, there is considerably less stigma than there used to be). Perhaps it’s also an acknowledgment of how unrealistic our expectations of beauty are. (Or course, it says something that rather than change those expectations, we’d rather go under the knife and get plastic surgery).

I think at the root of this is the notion that people want to feel good about the way they look. This might be harder in South Korea, thanks to the boom of plastic surgery. But plastic surgery can help. And I think that’s all anyone wants. There are several plastic surgery procedures that are much more low-key than your, perhaps more typical, breast augmentation or tummy tuck procedures. Many patients elect to have a fat graft procedure, for example, in which fat is taken from one area of the body and injected into another.

Looking Good to Feel Good

Mostly, I think, people just want to look as young and vibrant and energetic as they feel. Sometimes Mother Nature doesn’t make that easy, and patients certainly tend to feel better once they come out of the plastic surgeon’s office. But make no bones about it, plastic surgery should always be your choice. And, of course, most plastic surgeons will go to reasonable lengths to make sure that is the case—no one wants to operate on a patient who is not entirely sure that this procedure or that procedure is what they want in the end.

So if you’re thinking about plastic surgery, you should know that you aren’t alone. And maybe we can replace some of that competition with a little bit of camaraderie—after all, many patients are after the same thing: they want to look good and feel good. In that way, we’re all on the same side.