Reshaping Cultures

Topics: South Korea, Plastic surgery, Surgery Pages: 6 (2188 words) Published: December 2, 2013

9 October 2013
Word Count: 2075

The Reshaping of Cultures
Section Three: Plastic Surgery

Aspects of one’s culture are shaped by personal experiences, household traditions, and by one’s national beliefs. How sensitive the topic of cosmetic surgery is, differs by culture. South Koreans now widely accept plastic surgery as a part of their culture. This movement has sparked widespread criticism from people around the world. Many people either can’t comprehend the idea, can’t get past the cultural barrier, or can’t accept the adequate reasoning behind it. However, the reasoning is quite simple and should be accepted universally; Personal satisfaction and happiness are important factors to one’s well-being, and if improving one’s appearance can critically boost one’s self-esteem, then taking advantage of the technologies we have today like plastic surgery should be an acceptable option to remedy low self-worth and low self-esteem. Every culture has some different idea of what is considered beautiful. In the past when people lived in less diverse-looking societies, the standards of beauty typically were defined by features that weren’t common amongst their own community. As time flowed, certain places became more ethnically and culturally diverse than others, and in those places ideas clashed and standards changed, resulting in a more open community with ideal beauty being more subjective. However, there are places that still aren’t so diverse. In these places, the conception of what is considered ideal beauty is more predominantly accepted and can be linked heavily to historical and cultural roots as well as how influential and persistent the media is in that particular society. Although South Korea has been experiencing westernization since the Korean War, the country is still a generally homogenous nation, meaning that the demographics are still mostly Korean. South Korea is a country where the old meets the new and where traditions go hand in hand with modern ideas and technology; this goes for beauty as well. In ancient South Korea, having certain features could define not only ones ancestral past, but also ones future. In an article explaining the marriage of cosmetic surgery and ancient customs, Lee Su Hyun explains that, “Physiognomy, or the art of face reading, has been practiced for centuries in Korea - as well as in other Asian countries - as a way of divining a person's future” (Lee par. 8). In addition she proposed that, “Koreans also believe that personality is reflected in a person's facial features and that they [their facial features] are shaped by fate, genes and lifestyle” (Lee par. 9). This belief still persists today and many Koreans experience social pressures because of it. A South Korean mother explains that her daughter, Lee Min-Kyong, a 12 year old ballet dancer, lacks confidence: “Everyone, she says, points out her small eyes. It’s why she doesn’t think she’s a pretty girl” (Lah par. 3). Her mother added, “I’m having her do it [an eye job], because I think it’ll help her. This is a society where you have to be pretty to get ahead” (qtd. in Lah par. 7). Although her daughter didn’t ask for the surgery, Min-Kyong is looking forward to it: “‘I’m excited. I think I’ll look better than I do now,’ she says shyly, breaking into a small smile” (Lah par. 5). Foreigners may consider these social pressures to be offensive and superficial, but to South Koreans they are not; these pressures are just another everyday-custom. Korean media, especially the Korean pop (K-pop) scene, has also been shaped by these social pressures which state that beauty is important. In K-pop, the most successful and famous idols perfectly fit what Koreans consider beautiful, near perfection. These idols are a part of every aspect of the media because of that. Unlike the western counterpart in which he or she is known for what he or she does best, a single Korean idol can be known to partake in a multitude of positions. It...
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