Seoul is considered by many as the “beauty belt” of the Asia, and is a strong influencer in the areas of music, fashion, and beauty worldwide. The phenomenon of K-pop, which stands for Korean popular music, is an infectious, melodic, lively, up-tempo, American inspired, soulful, and catchy style of music that is emulated across the world.
With K-pop singer PSY’s “Gangnam Style” success going mainstream across the world, the song introduced the K-pop platform and appeal to the masses, which continues to influence the world’s sense of style, music, and idea beauty. The majority of the imagery that K-pop music conveys is a highly-fashionable, trendy style for both men and women, with a pristine, Western, young, and glamorous looks of beauty. As a result, the imagery produced from K-pop, in a sense, has assimilated a desired lifelike portrait and standard of what beauty should aim to resemble within Korean and the Asian culture.
Is it medical tourism or assimilation?
As I travel through Seoul’s subway system and streets, I can’t help but notice the array of advertisements plastered along the walls and promotional ads on digital billboards targeting consumers for simple and effective plastic surgery. The eye-catching ads communicate the imagery of a K-pop lookalike appearance as the definition of beauty. The persuasive cosmetic surgery marketing ads present images of dramatic before and after pictures of satisfied plastic surgery patients that have undergone eyelid, facial bone reconstruction, and nose and hairline adjustments.
According to CNN, medical tourism is revenue-generating industry that attracts high-spending tourists’ to jet set from near and far to South Korea for cosmetic surgery. The majority of the tourists that travel to Korea are from China, Japan, Singapore, and the U.S. From just observing the guests that enter in and out of the hotel that I’m staying at in the Seoul area, I see women and some men with facial markers of bandages that tell the story of their plastic surgery journeys. I start to wonder, are these men and women just undergoing cosmetic surgery for a simple nip and tuck, in order to enhance their self-esteem? Or is the reconstructive surgery a direct result of the K-pop or Korean wave of assimilation and influence?
How will the narrative evolve?
Communication is a powerful tool within culture. In the same light, it will be interesting to see how the medical tourism industry in South Korea evolves worldwide and is communicated as K-pop garners more fans from various nationalities and ethnicities. Will more advertisements start using storytelling techniques to enhance the overall cosmetic surgery narrative? How will digital marketing stimulate consumers in other regions of the world to flock to South Korea for plastic surgery to get the K-pop look? Essentially, will the world being to look, communicate, and measure the average Korean and Asian physical appearance to what is projected through K-pop as the ideal attractive look for the Asian culture to adhere to?