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Mirror, mirror on the K-wall, who’s the fairest of them all? Every single Korean celebrity with flawless complexions, chiselled jawlines, and perfectly symmetrical features, of course.

In South Korea, the global epicentre of the “Korean Wave”, plastic surgery is often embraced as a stepping stone to success and beauty.

They awe us on magazine covers, walk the red carpets, and grace our TV screens daily. Truth be told, it’s hard to not be captivated by the veneer of their poreless perfection and age-defying beauty.

But under the veneer of this seemingly perfect aesthetic lies a complex reality, where the line between enhancement and excess can blur, leaving us to wonder: is Korea’s love affair with plastic surgery a recipe for beauty or a pressure cooker for unrealistic expectations?

Even when they undergo plastic surgery, some may not be satisfied after all. The real questions to ask here are: “What does it take and truly mean to be beautiful?” and “How much plastic surgery is too much?”.

Plastic Surgery in Korea


Korean Plastic Surgery experience at JW.. I got threads to build collagen and refresh my face in Seoul👩🏽‍⚕️🏥 #visitkorea #traveltiktok #thisiskorea #kbeauty #seoul #plasticsurgery

♬ on the street (with J. Cole) – j-hope & J. Cole

In the Land of Morning Calm, cosmetic procedures are as commonplace as facials and plastic surgery isn’t shrouded in secrecy.

One of the reasons is also because of how qualified the doctors are, readily available and advanced surgical techniques, and not to mention the justifiable or “more affordable” costs.

Surely you’ve heard of people jetting over to South Korea for facials, face treatments, and aesthetic procedures!


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♬ original sound – Korea unfiltered

On the other hand, this normalised cultural phenomenon is fueled by a combination of factors: intense beauty standards, investment in oneself, fierce competition in the entertainment industry, and a societal emphasis on youthfulness.


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While actors and actresses are often at the forefront of this trend, openly discussing their procedures and influencing beauty ideals, the line between “enhancing” and “altering” can become dangerously blurred.

The pressure to conform to a narrow definition of beauty can lead some celebrities to undergo multiple procedures, resulting in faces that appear uncanny, frozen, and devoid of individuality.


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Believe it or not, plastic surgery and everything surrounding it can also take a toll on people’s mental health, particularly among younglings who are constantly bombarded with images of “perfect” faces.

However, that’s not to say that plastic surgery’s all bad! When done “right” and to your liking, something that may be deemed as “madness” can also craft magic for us.

Related read: Travelling to Korea for Plastic Surgery: Everything You Need to Know

Cases of “Too Much Plastic Surgery”?

Is Korea’s plastic surgery phenomenon a model for the world, or a cautionary tale? Well, it might very well be a complex relationship between beauty, identity, and the scalpel.

Let’s see what an expert, Dr Gary Linkov from City Facial Plastics, has to say about some Korean stars who went under the knife.

Hwang Kwanghee

korean stars plastic surgery

Credit: @prince_kwanghee/Instagram

This South Korean singer, actor, and TV personality debuted in 2010 as a member of boy band ZE:A.

According to SBS Star, Hwang Kwanghee never made it to centre stage but what really made him famous and more “noticeable” was his on-air confession regarding his plastic surgery.

His openness even led to a spokesmodel role for Korea Plastic Surgery in 2014. In fact, the only part of his face that hasn’t been touched by a surgeon is his cheekbones!

And the amount of plastic surgery he’s done was so extensive that he was given the nickname ‘Paju Silicon Valley’.

hwang kwang hee plastic surgery

Credit: KpopStarz

In an episode of KBS’s Hello Counselor, Hwang Kwanghee shared that even though he got plastic surgery he still felt “below” his other members as “they were all born with naturally handsome looks” and he was not.

To that, Dr Gary noted that sometimes people get plastic surgery to get closer to what they have envisioned as ideal but may still feel inadequate after as they might think “it’s fake” or feel like they’re “fooling people” — “almost like impostor syndrome”.

hwang kwanghee botox and fillers

Credit: Doctor Gary Linkov/YouTube

Early last year, Hwang Kwanghee revealed that he couldn’t move parts of his mouth after getting Botox and fillers. As an actor and TV personality, this could affect his performance and career.

Dr Gary jumped in to share that there are cases of clinically diagnosed body dysmorphic disorder where one would never be satisfied regardless of how many procedures they get done.

It could be what Hwang Kwanghee has gone through or is going through as he’s getting many procedures that he knows will have potential consequences.

Yoon Eun-hye

korean stars plastic surgery

Credit: @y1003_grace/Instagram

Actress and singer Yoon Eun-hye, who was once named the “first love” actress was said to have lost her natural acting and look stiff and awkward after undergoing plastic surgery.

“The way that that could happen is if Botox is placed into areas where filler is supposed to be placed.

If you’re looking for augmentation around the mouth area, then you could get a weakening of your lip area, [or] the smile can be off because some people actually confuse Botox with filler on the patient’s side and unfortunately on the provider side [too].

So always know who you’re going to see, [and] make sure that they have the right credentials and background to be able to properly treat you,” said Dr Gary.

korean stars ruined faces plastic surgery

Credit: Bbali Drama/YouTube

Aside from other fiascos, after Yoon Eun-hye returned from her hiatus in 2017 she still couldn’t regain the love and attention of the audience she once had before.

People thought that going under the knife too much “destroyed her pure beauty” and called her “a plastic surgery disaster”.

Although her face had recovered a lot, she still couldn’t act as naturally as she did before the scalpel.

korean stars plastic surgery before and after

Credit: MISS-K-DRAMA/YouTube

“There’s a fine line between getting surgery that then makes you look prettier, more attractive, more youthful and going overboard.

It’s one thing if you don’t like some component of your nose and you’re looking for a slight tweak or you’re hairline has receded and you’re looking to restore it.

But when you’re looking to completely change many features of who you are, that can come as a shock to not just yourself as you recover but also to many other people.

Plastic surgery should enhance your look to the best of its ability rather than completely change your look and look like someone that you’re not,” asserted Dr Gary.

Related read: 10 Celebrities Who Have Had Dramatic Plastic Surgery Transformations (Tyra Banks Though?!)

Park Min-young

park min young korean stars ruined face with plastic surgery

Credit: @rachel_mypark/Instagram

Actress Park Min-young previously revealed that she had her nose done and double eyelid surgery in junior high.

However, when netizens observed her before-and-after pictures, they often concluded that she’d done a lot more procedures than the two mentioned.

Park Min-young was known for her iconic, sweet, and youthful visuals when she starred in K-drama Love In Contract in 2022. In more recent dramas, audiences noted that she looked stiff, unnatural, and rather strange.

One netizen even shared that they weren’t sure if they wanted to watch the K-drama Healer since the amount of plastic surgery Park Min-young has had genuinely troubled them.

park min young plastic surgery ruined acting

Credit: Bbali Drama/YouTube

So, does getting plastic surgery change the way that we function and the way that our faces move? The answer is yes!

In this case, Dr Gary elaborated: “For example, even something like Botox, there are many studios or live Broadway shows that don’t allow actors and actresses to have Botox in, say like, their foreheads because it limits the types of expressions that they can produce.”

Related read: 10 Celebrities Who’ve Had Plastic Surgery Reversal

The Common Risks and Considerations of Plastic Surgery

While the allure of plastic surgery can be strong, it’s crucial to understand the inherent risks and considerations before making any decisions.

plastic surgery risks

Credits: @hideurdadbiatch/TikTok, @hwangseungbin29/TikTok

Here’s a breakdown of some key points:

  1. Medical complications: Like any surgery, plastic procedures carry risks of infection, bleeding, blood clots, allergic reactions to anaesthesia, and organ damage. The severity and likelihood of these risks depend on various factors like your overall health, the type of surgery, and the surgeon’s skill.
  2. Unpredictable outcomes: Despite careful planning and skilled surgeons, achieving the exact desired outcome is not always guaranteed. Factors like individual healing, tissue response, and even genetics can influence the final result. You might not achieve your “dream look,” even with a skilled surgeon.
  3. Dissatisfaction and regret: Even if the surgery goes medically well, there’s a chance you might not be happy with the aesthetics. This could be due to unrealistic expectations, unforeseen scarring, or simply changes in personal preferences. Regret after plastic surgery is not uncommon, and addressing it can be emotionally and financially challenging.
  4. Financial cost: Plastic surgery can be expensive, and the costs often extend beyond the initial surgery fee. Recovery costs, potential revisions, and ongoing maintenance can add up significantly.
  5. Mental and emotional impact: The decision to undergo plastic surgery should not be taken lightly.

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So before you decide on starting a relationship with the scalpel, consider the potential impact on your self-esteem, relationships, and mental well-being throughout the process and beyond.

You can also explore non-surgical options like makeup, skincare, and even therapy before making a final, permanent decision.

Ultimately, the decision to pursue plastic surgery is a personal one. You can make an informed and responsible choice by carefully weighing the risks, considering alternatives, and prioritising your well-being.

Remember to manage your expectations and focus on self-acceptance — don’t aim for perfection. Instead, make improvements that align with your natural features and overall health.

Plastic surgery should be a complement to self-love, not a replacement for it!

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Featured image credit: @gahyeonsluvmeow/TikTok, @prince_kwanghee/Instagram, @drlaurel/TikTok