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A Flood of Cosmetic Surgery Advertisements
By Choi Min-yeong
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Last week, I was watching commercials waiting for a movie to start at a theater in downtown Seoul. Among the ten commercials, two were ads for cosmetic surgery clinics. As soon as one commercial told us to undergo plastic surgery at their clinic for a unique face and not just another copy of a pretty face at the hands of the doctor--the so-called "medical twin"--another commercial seduced the audience to raise their value through plastic surgery telling us how a woman who once played a supporting role in her life became the star after surgery.

These commercials implanted the illusion that anyone could be reborn as a beauty through cosmetic surgery, but did not mention a single word about the side effects and risks. This was in contrast to the commercials for securities companies, which include a warning, "There is a risk of principal and investment losses." Although health and life are no less important than money, people are treating lightly the doctor's obligation to inform and the patient's right to know.

Advertisements for plastic surgery, which were once limited to fashion magazines, have dominated the public domain in just a few years due to the rapid growth of the cosmetic surgery market and overheated competition.

An advertisement of a cosmetic surgery clinic occupies a part of a subway station. The ad shows pictures of previous patients before and after surgery.



Not only do we see ads on the Internet and subways, but even public buses plastered with ads for cosmetic surgery play commercials whispering, "That's where she got hers done," between bus stop announcements. Now that these advertisements have entered the cinema, it looks like the final frontier may be public broadcasting.

Actually, unofficially, public broadcasting has already promoted cosmetic surgery. Celebrities who have been absent for some time surely appear with a different face. A cable TV show which sponsors and provides cosmetic surgery worth millions of won to those who appear on the show is highly popular.

Lim In-sook, a professor of sociology at Korea University pointed out in her article "Uninformed Dangers in the Republic of Cosmetic Surgery" (2010) that "the advertisements mass-produced by the cosmetic surgery industry, adopt a strategy which injects the fantasy of a man-made beauty into the consumers and dispels the fear of surgery." If we explain this in terms of stock investment, they are attracting the individual investors--so-called "ants"--by advertising only the success stories in investment.

Since the 1990s, Korean cosmetic surgeons started defining the body which require corrections at the hands of plastic surgeons, persuaded people that the ideal of beauty could be achieved through their intervention, and promised the "beauty jackpot." But no one seems to be mentioning the problems. Problems with the silicone nose implants only came up after the cartilage transplant technique was introduced, and this has been how the industry dealt with most of its problems.

The United Kingdom is planning to introduce measures regulating excessive marketing of the cosmetic surgery industry this year. After a bitter experience with illegal breast implants in 2011, they judged that the existing system failed to protect the safety of the patient and the consumer.

In a draft report, Britain's National Health Service pointed out that the flood of cosmetic surgery advertising and "transformation" TV programs make light of cosmetic surgery and its related risks, while overly emphasizing the satisfaction following surgery.
This is not someone else's story. It is time for us to reconsider the overflowing cosmetic surgery advertisements.

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