The Newest Plastic Surgery Capital? South Korea

You might assume that the United States, with its fetishization of massive silicone boobs and tucked tummies, is the leader in plastic surgeries. But in reality, it ranks a lowly sixth on the per-capita list.

You might also assume that the leader is Brazil, a country that has been in the news a lot lately for its booming plastic surgery business. But it doesn't top the list, either.

As the latest issue of The New Yorker explores, the distinction of "plastic surgery capital" actually belongs to none other than South Korea. In Seoul, it's been estimated that between one-fifth and one-third of women have gone under the knife; for women in their twenties, that figure is closer to 50%.

Every country has its idealized body part—in Brazil, for instance, butt lifts are popular, while the good ole' US of A is all about the DD boobs. In South Korea, small heads are all the rage; many young women in the country undergo jaw-slimming surgery, which involves shaving the mandible using oscillating saws or breaking and then realigning both jaws.

The story provides a fascinating, at times harrowing, glimpse into the cultural forces—like job applicants being required to attach pictures to their resumes—that feed physical insecurities and plastic surgery obsession.

Is plastic surgery morally reprehensible? That's a debate for another day. But in any case, this is a highly recommended read for anyone interested in the fascinating intersection of cultural norms and beauty ideals.

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