The Korean Wave and Plastic Surgery

(Song Hye Gyo and Kim Tae Hee are considered the most beautiful Korean actresses in Asia)

(Average cost to look like Korean top stars: $5000.00)

The Korean wave, also known as Hallyu, is the permeation of South Korean culture around the world, and is considered a phenomenon throughout East Asia. The term was originally coined by Chinese journalists who were shocked by the rapidly growing popularity of Korean celebrities and culture throughout Asia. But now the trend has transcended its broad cultural quality and a new term has been coined – “Medical Hallyu”—to refer to the phenomenon in which Asian tourists fly to South Korea for cosmetic purposes, usually surgery. According to, Asians are willing to pay three times more to receive surgery in Korea than in any other country, in an attempt to craft a more “natural” look.

Plastic surgery held negative connotations before the 20th century. Celebrities who underwent plastic surgery were considered fake and were severely criticized by society. However, culture has changed dramatically. This change was, and is, fundamentally a result of advertising and celebrity sponsorship. Famous Korean entertainers, such as Park Min Young and Goo Hara, have openly admitted that they have undergone some surgical procedures. Their stories, along with other celebrities “coming out,” has encouraged more and more women to openly admit to having undergone plastic surgery—and now women from China and Taiwan are determined to craft their faces to meet the standards of Korean beauty. According to plastic surgeon in Seoul Joo Kwon, most of the tourists who visit his clinic want their face to resemble Lee Young Ae, a Korean actress. An article on an online site Rappler says, “according to government data, overall medical spending by foreign visitors hit the record of $116 million last year,” and the number of Chinese patients nearly tripled from 1,657 in 2008 to 4,400 in 2010. As ‘medical hallyu’ grows more and more popular, plastic surgery clinics are determined to lure foreign customers by meeting their patients at the airport, and greeting them by staffers who speak English, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese or Mongolian. Joo has recently opened a hotel for those who fly [over] to Korea and spend an average of $20,000 for plastic surgery. There is even a forum discussing which plastic surgery clinics are cheap, reliable and trustworthy.

Moreover, the sheer number of Korean celebrity’s ‘before and after’ pictures posted online is giving hope to Asians that they too can become “beautiful”. Before and after pictures can be found here.


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