The Straits Times reported yesterday a growing trend of Singaporeans heading to South Korea for cosmetic surgery, and a rise in the number of botched procedures. One woman went to have her drooping eye bags corrected and double eyelids accentuated, but ended up with creases in her eyelids that make her eyes look asymmetrical. The doctor also transferred fat from her abdomen to her forehead without her permission, leaving her with an unnaturally flat portion between her forehead and her eyebrows.
It would be hard to dispute that the surge in popularity of Korean popular culture in Singapore has given greater impetus to Singaporeans to seek the plastic perfection that modern medical science can offer. The article also mentioned a horrific case of a former Korean model named Hang Mioku who was so addicted to cosmetic surgery that she injected cooking oil into her own face in 2008 when doctors refused to give her any more silicone.
It is worth contemplating why modern society – particularly countries like South Korea – is so obsessed with physical perfection, and what the phenomenon of more and more Singaporeans going under the knife and the needle says about our own society and its values. Some commentators have averred that the visual has taken over the textual as the main paradigm of communication: today, we are communicating more and more with images (pictures on Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook, emoji on What’s App) than with words (the long letters and phone calls of the past). Has this engendered an insidious intensification of the hold that images have on our minds and emotions? Is it feeding our fixation with how we look – especially compared to others – and causing us to tie our self-esteem to our external appearance ever more?
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