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[Weekender] Men go under the knife

More getting plastic surgery in a society where appearance can mean power

For many years, cosmetic surgery for men was something to be hushed up.

Yet, in a society where appearance can be power, an increasing number of Korean men are heading to plastic surgery clinics in an effort to climb the corporate ladder and keep up with the younger-looking.

Lee Jeong-hwan, 31, said he recently visited a plastic surgeon for a consultation on having double-eyelid surgery.

“I have a double eyelid on only one eye. I think I’d make a better impression on people if I had a balanced look,” Lee told The Korea Herald.

He added that he would be willing to have other small surgeries if they could make his appearance more attractive and natural.

“My friends, colleagues and I often share information about small surgeries or cosmetic products like BB cream. It’s become natural for men to talk about beauty,” Lee said.

According to a recent survey by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, nearly 30 percent of 46,000 men in their 20s and 30s said they were willing to have plastic surgery to look younger and more handsome. Some 16 percent of men 50 and older were also in favor of cosmetic surgery.

The desire to climb the corporate ladder and keep up with the younger-looking has become the main reason more men are open to having cosmetic procedures, according to the survey. 
Dr. Shin Yong-ho of BK Plastic Surgery consults a patient at the clinic in Gangnam, southern Seoul.(Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)
Dr. Shin Yong-ho of BK Plastic Surgery consults a patient at the clinic in Gangnam, southern Seoul.(Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)

BK Plastic Surgery, one of the leading plastic surgery clinics in Gangnam, southern Seoul, said it has seen a steady increase in the number of male patients coming for consultations over the past few years.

The number of men undergoing cosmetic procedures accounted for 11 percent of all such procedures carried out by the clinic in 2013, up from 9 percent in 2011, according to the clinic.

Some of the particularly popular operations for both men and women are nose and eyelid surgeries, said Lee Seung-ah, a public relations official of BK Plastic Surgery.

“Until recently, people wanted a masculine, charismatic look. But now more patients need a boyish image,” the official said.

This is part of why more people are undergoing facial bone contouring surgery to get smoother facial lines, she explained.

Popular surgical procedures among those in their 50s and older are face lifts, abdominal liposuction, Botox, hair implants and facial fillers, according to the clinic.

“Botox is not even considered a cosmetic procedure anymore. For me, it’s like a regular vaccination,” said a 61-year-old patient. “A vaccination for antiaging.”

Experts point out that the growing popularity of plastic surgeries is largely led by male celebrities boldly coming out with their history of plastic surgery.

Over the past years, a slew of actors and K-pop stars, including actor Namgoong Min, singer Kim Dong-wan from K-pop group Shinhwa and Hwang Kwang-hee from boy band ZE:A, have all confessed to their surgeries on TV.

With more public figures revealing their surgical experiences, the notion that men don’t have to make efforts to have smooth skin or look handsome has changed, according to plastic surgeon Shin Yong-ho from BK Plastic Surgery.

Shin has witnessed the shift from machismo to “flower men” ― a term coined by KBS’ 2009 soap opera “Boys Over Flowers.”

“Men have become less hesitant about going under the knife, with some willing to spend a massive amount of money to improve their appearance,” Shin told The Korea Herald.

Most of the male customers who visit the clinic ask about getting their nose done, whereas body and chest surgeries are equally popular in the West.

“There’s a saying in Korea that ‘A man lives well if he has a well-shaped nose.’ Men who want a successful career come to the hospital for this,” Shin explained.

The fast-changing trend is partly due to fierce competition, from job hunting to getting married, in a society where appearances matter.

“Wanting to look fabulous and young is a common desire for both men and women,” Shin said.

“Men no longer feel embarrassed about spending time and money on having flawless skin or a higher nose,” he added.

By Suk Gee-hyun (
Korea Herald Youtube