Last year, South Korean plastic surgeons performed nearly 700,000 surgical and nonsurgical cosmetic procedures.
Plastic surgery has become so common in South Korea that 15-30 percent of Korean women are said to have undergone a cosmetic procedure. That percentage soars when looking at only those under the age of thirty, with some estimates exceeding fifty percent, although such numbers are probably exaggerated.
While frequently cited for an infatuation with cosmetic surgery, Korean women are simply following a trend set in other more affluent countries.
Comparing number of plastic surgery procedures performed per million people, American women fall only a few percentage points behind their Korean counterparts.
As in the West where celebrities often set fashion standards, the people of Korea have grown more comfortable with the idea of plastic surgery as their entertainers and even political leaders have flaunted altered features.
Some of the procedures they seek are predictably similar to those popular in other countries (for instance, breast augmentation and liposuction), while others are strikingly different due to anatomical variations between those from the East and West.
The most popular Korean facial plastic surgery operations, double eyelid surgery to create an upper eyelid crease and augmentation rhinoplasty to enhance the structure of the nose, are very different from their equivalents in the West.
Other well-known Korean cosmetic procedures are all but unavailable outside of the Orient. Cheek, jaw, and calf reduction surgery have attracted the most attention.
While heavily advertised within the country, Korean plastic surgery is also actively marketed throughout Asia Pacific and more recently the West. As in the United States, many good doctors have been drawn into the rapidly-growing field of plastic surgery because payment for cosmetic services falls outside the tight controls of the national health care system or medical insurance companies.
Although South Korean prices are lower than in the West, they are still among the highest in East and Southeast Asia.