In South Korea, size matters. In a country where double eyelid surgery to get bigger eyes is frequently a high school gift, there is a new plastic surgery trend that is rapidly gathering steam. No matter that it involves months of postsurgical recovery. South Koreans are undergoing double-jaw surgery, an excruciating process that involves reconfiguring and aligning the upper and lower jaws. The goal: to make their faces smaller. In the United States, this painful surgery is usually done to correct congenital facial deformities.
In this country, netizens, or citizens of the internet, are busy comparing face sizes of celebrities. Small-faced celebrities are the undisputed “winners,” and “losers” are flocking to the hundreds of plastic surgery clinics clustered alongside the so-called “beauty belt” in southern Seoul. In South Korean households the term “V-line” does not denote cleavage. It is used to describe an oval face with a lean facial line and a sharp chin.
Dr. Park Sung-hoon, head of Seoul’s ID Hospital reports to English.news.cn, “It seems like having a small face is a dream for South Koreans.” Here, all eyes are trained on celebrities who have had their jaw bones cut and emerge looking totally different. Park estimates that 99 percent of South Korean celebrities get plastic surgery on their faces.
But the ID Hospital also gets a lot of foreigners who take advantage of South Korea’s advanced technology. Government efforts to promote medical tourism and the popularity of South Korean celebrities generate a steady stream of takers.
The information that this trend is based on is debatable, but what has emerged are some alarming new statistics. The state-run Korea Consumer Agency reports that the number of reported cases of adverse effects of plastic surgery stood at 2,984 in 2010, up from 1,901 cases in 2006. According to English.news.cn, “An unspecified number of people have reportedly died after double-jaw surgery, a major operation involving general anesthesia, due to excessive bleeding.”
When confronted with the criticism that celebrities now all look similar and have lost individual charm, Parks replies, “Some might blame us surgeons for making everyone look alike, but it’s not like we can shape a face the way we really want to. It is the society that ultimately decides what a desirable face should look like.”
Double-jaw surgery, which was originally developed to correct underbite and crossbite among other orthodontic problems, usually costs more than 10 million won ($8,690 US dollars) and chin surgery is about half that price.