Changing the Face of Korea

Posted: May 25, 2011 in Health, Medicare in Korea
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s early morning. As the sun creeps over the horizon I am dressed and walking as people around me sleep. The eerie stillness of dawn is broken by a 50-year-old woman clad in bright pink jogging around the nearby playground. As she makes her approach to the swings, feeling eyes upon her, she turns to stare at me. Ignoring the glare I walk onwards to the bus stop.

Koreans care for their image. Walking down a high street you will see brands plastered over the citizens who have opted to buy luxury brands with their hard-earned cash. 

As a westerner it is an unwritten requirement that you fulfil a certain English-speaker stereotype. This manifestation must preferably have white skin, be born in a country with English as the native tongue and ideally have blonde hair and blue eyes. In a similar fashion, Koreans also have certain physical features that are appreciated and sought after by their compatriots.

Samsung (Group) is accountable for about one fifth of Korea’s exports. The company itself was founded in 1938 by Lee Byung-Chull and he built his empire firmly on three main factors: market, management and people. He was a pioneer in hiring staff, choosing a psychologist as his consultant rather than a business specialist. It was also his belief that the human face was an open book to that person’s life and personality. He believed this so strongly that only those prospective employees with certain defining facial features would be hired. This unusual method of selection has become ingrained into Samsung’s recruitment process. Although perhaps not as strictly applied, it would appear that this reliance on looks is part of Korean culture.

When applying for a job in Korea, native applicants must provide everything from their social status to a recent photograph. Date of birth, experience, qualifications and references are also necessary. In addition to all this, the strangest piece of information required is details of the applicant’s parents. Curriculum vitae must include your parents’ social and employment status and failure to do so will void your application. And if your parents were unsuccessful in life, regardless of how many qualifications you have, you may well be discriminated against.

But there’s much more to be taken into consideration if you are fortunate enough to get to the interview stage at Samsung. At this mighty company you will be met by the interviewers and a ‘face reader’. The ‘reader’ is there to provide ‘expert’ opinion on the applicant’s face. Such features as the eyebrows and how far apart they are, the shape of the nose and the size of the nostrils, the regularity of the teeth and even the plumpness of the lips. Lacking the prescribed aesthetics, you are likely to be shunned.

Plastic surgeons have capitalized on this and the market has expanded, with many Koreans making the decision to go under the knife in an attempt to change their appearance as a means of upgrading themselves in the recruitment process.

It is common practice for women to have their cheekbones raised to finish up with a look closely resembling a triangle. Also, a more widespread operation is to insert a crease on the eyelids to give the impression of larger and shapelier eyes. This kind of surgery is well-established across Asia – as it estimated that about 50% of Asians are born with a ‘single eyelid’ (whereas most Caucasians are born with a ‘double eyelid’).

As with any surgery, there can be complications. For instance, a faulty operation could disfigure the face by leaving unsightly scars or actually deform the facial structure. However, the risk appears to be the same as in any developed nation. It is just that the deemed necessity to go to such extreme measure is so much more generally accepted, and expected, than in the West.

So does this drastic approach work? Yes, sadly it does. Plastic surgery is changing the rules of the game and if you can afford a procedure then it can give your career a well-needed boost.

Soon we shall see a people with a crisis of identity – a people with only one.

© John Brownlie 2011

  1. Corum says:

    That is true but let us not forget the silly usa and brit girls who not just get their face cut like korea but get the breat cut and then pooped into with bags of silicon- which of course is done as well as in korea.

    to be short rich shallow persons in the usa and korea will get themselves cut both are dumb

    but koreans are dumber as they think i will teach better than some India/P.I./Bali/Singapore/Paki/ Congo english speaking guy becasuse my face is white and my hair is light and my eyes are green – they think this makes me a better man and thus will not hire a more experenced better trained more qualified non-western guy becasue they ‘look ugly and smell dirty’ nice one dumbo Koreans I am laughing all the way to the bank at your shallowness!

    The Greeks of 1000s of years past had the same silly idea – good face and body meant a honest good man and an ugly broken face and body meant an evil vile man… they were fools too who loved boys and girls to entertain themselves with so perhaps korean culture is still better than theirs though still as shallow.

    • elbear1 says:

      Thanks for your comment I agree with you to a certain extent, that people who have plastic surgery normally shouldn’t have to just to make them more aesthetically pleasing.
      I assume from your comment at the ‘laughing all the way to the bank at your (Koreans’) shallowness’ means that you too are a teacher. I’m sorry that Koreans are educated by someone who is seemingly is not, but I guess you have the ‘last laugh’ as you take the ‘dumb’ Korean’s money.
      If you wish to compare the two cultures, although they are 2500 years between them, the Ancient Greeks were far more civilized and advanced than their neighbours at that time, who were basically just tribes. Koreans however are far less advanced socially and culturally than the Western world, but perhaps on par with their neighbours. Yes we can make several comparisons; They were both human, they both like baths. You point out that the Greeks liked children, paedophilla is a problem in Korea now but does not get addressed much, in fact the society reservedly is silent on the matter but it does happen. Yes the Greeks made mistakes but also advances so future societies could prosper. However the fool is one who does not learn from previous mistakes.

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