Han Myok was “the most sympathized-with woman in South Korea,” says Shukan Asahi (Feb 27). She owed her fame to insatiable media interest in her bloated face -- which in turn she owed to an astonishing addiction. Plastic surgery was her drug. She simply couldn’t get enough of it.
It’s not quite as odd as it sounds. So widespread is cosmetic surgery in South Korea, the magazine hears from a Seoul-based journalist, that “old women tell their grandchildren, ‘If you don’t have it done, you’ll never amount to anything.’”
The high yen and low South Korean won give the story a relevance to Japan. Japanese women, Shukan Asahi finds, are flocking to Seoul in droves, snapping at the perceived chance to remodel themselves at once-in-a-lifetime bargain prices. But bargains invariably carry hidden costs. This one is no exception.
Han, now in her late 40s, aspired as a young woman to be a singer. There’s only one hope for a singer with an unexceptional voice -- exceptional beauty. Han didn’t have that, but her first go at plastic surgery definitely made her prettier. Wouldn’t a second operation make her prettier still? Repeated silicon injections filled out her cheeks. If she’d known when to stop, she might have been all right. But she seemed to believe that beauty, real beauty, was just around the corner. Possibly the next injection would do it, or the next, or the one after. Alarmed, her friends urged her to stop. But the voice in her head sang a different song: “You want to be beautiful? Silicon, more silicon!”
Finally her doctors cut her off. Han took matters into her own hands. She began injecting herself at home with a silicon substitute -- a mixture of soybean oil and paraffin. The eventual result was a face so distorted as to be (if the photograph the magazine features is anything to go by) scarcely human. Psychiatric treatment followed, after which 15 restorative operations removed a total of 4 kg of granulated fat.
Everyone wants to be beautiful. Plastic surgeons thrive on that quirk of human nature. The yen, hyper-strong against the won, is an added inducement that many Japanese women are finding irresistible. Shukan Asahi, without citing numbers or prices, speaks of special “plastic surgery tours” whisking beauty-seekers to Seoul for treatments that may never be cheaper.
Beware of two dangers in particular. First, says one agent, you can make your reservations only to find the clinic you’re set up with so crowded you can’t get serviced in time. Secondly, and more ominously, some plastic surgeons have been known to put quick profit ahead of ethical practice, as Han’s case seems to prove. Some South Korean surgeons are reportedly not even properly licensed. Do a thorough background check before an operation, warns Shukan Asahi.
As for Han, “Even now, whenever I look into a mirror I feel a desire for cosmetic surgery. But, she adds, “I’m controlling myself.”© Japan Today