Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Gangnam-Style Bespoke Beauty

V is for vacuity

This Bloomberg article on Korea's cosmetic surgury tourism industry provides an update on the swells of foreigners traveling from Asia and Western countries to Seoul for cosmetic surgery. The Korean government is now pitching in to help fuel the trend, actively promoting a domestic industry that is becoming recognized as the best in the world. Whether it is Koreans wanting to look more Western, other Asians wanting to look more K-pop, or Westerns wanting to look slimmer and more subtle (a bemusing circularity of envy), Seoul is increasingly the place to go for that needed nip and tuck. Certainly, it’s not cheap, as attested by the Vietnamese kindergarten school manager budgeting $10,000 for a chin implant and face-lift. The cost includes travel and hotel stay during the post-op rest period, during which flying on airplanes is highly inadvised, lest patients suddenly have to check their new noses into the overhead bin.
The epicenter of cosmetic surgery is in the Gangnam district of Seoul, where it is virtually impossible to throw a jar of night cream without hitting a building that has a beauty clinic in it. The Korean government is targeting the industry as part of its goal to add 20,000 new jobs, including nurses and interpreters who can speak Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Russian etc etc. Despite the questionable moral and social issues of encouraging a global homogenization of beauty, the government recognizes the economic value of drawing in foreigners willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars per visit. Apparently, the hope is that the benefits to the country of promoting itself as the cutting edge of the cutting edge is more than, well, skin deep.

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