Plastic surgery is always a personal decision, reflecting the need for improvements in self-esteem and body image. For South Korean girls, it is something else that is much deeper than just a "desire to look better." It borders on obsession.
Even as recently as five years ago, cosmetic surgery was something to be dealt with privately, as for many it was embarrassing. Now you can forget about that as for some girls like the one pictured below, it is a matter of pride to show the world pictures of her surgery on the net.
For South Korean teenage girls, the primary target of change is their eyes. Having big eyes is every teen's dream and it can become a reality via a simple $800 operation in which a small incision is made above the eye to create an artificial double lid.
Kids as young as 14 are opting for the surgery, and what have come to be known as "eye jobs" have become a favorite graduation gift from parents.
During the winter months when high school seniors are on vacation preparing for either college or the work place, the clinics are at their busiest. Moat of the surgeries requested are for the eyelids, but nose jobs are also becoming popular among the teen population.
"Teenagers are plastic surgery experts. They tell the doctor, using scientific words, which surgery method to use. But despite the medical knowledge they bring to the clinics, many teens still show their age," says Dr. Lee Min Ku, a Seoul surgeon whose patients are mostly in their teens or 20s.
There is another painful aspect to this plastic surgery phenomenon. The emphasis on looks is fine, but the silent acceptance of a "racially inferior" look is not. The fear of falling behind and not being able to compete unless they have themselves remade is a sad commentary on a generation of teenagers.
"Parents make their kids get plastic surgery, just like they make them study. They realize looks are important for success," says Dr. Shim Hyung Bo, a Seoul plastic surgeon.
For teenagers in South Korea today, getting their eyes done is a lot easier than getting the keys to their parents' car.