While she wasn't in favor of cosmetic surgery, becoming more attractive can improve her educational and career prospects, she wrote. Left unconsidered in her evaluation of the situation was the question why or how being more attractive makes a person more qualified for a job.
Because, you know, unless we're talkng about modeling or television work, it doesn't.
Korean culture values looks above almost anything else. If that sounds like a very provocative statement, well, maybe it is. But just today, there is an article in the Korea Herald stating that now the suneung test is over, plastic surgery season has begun. The article opens:
An 18-year-old high school senior student in Gangnam-gu spent the weekend following the College Scholastic Ability Test last week taking counseling in cosmetic surgery hospitals.
“I had my appointment made several months ahead of the CSAT, otherwise I would not have been able to make it onto the waiting list,” said the student who asked to be identified by her family name Koh.
“The surgery is actually to be an early gift from my mother, both for high school graduation and university entrance.”
After counseling, she had appointments made to have cosmetic surgery on her eyes and nose and laser-processed dermatological scaling before the end of the month.
It has long become a common process for CSAT-takers here to visit cosmetic surgeons straight after the test so that they may improve their looks before entering university.
Most commonly, Koreans want larger, rounder eyes, eschewing the almond eyes of their race--a race whose purity is practically a national obsession. Go figure. According to an article in Time:
South Korea's primary cosmetic obsession is with the eyes. Having bigger eyes is every girl's dream, and it can now be realized through a simple $800 operation, in which a small incision or suture is made above the eye to create an artificial double lid. Teenagers as young as 14 are doing it, and eye jobs have become a favorite high school graduation gift from proud parents.
Clinics are busiest during winter vacations, when high school seniors are preparing themselves for college or for entering the workplace. The majority come for the eyelids, but nose jobs are also becoming popular among teens. "Teenagers are plastic surgery experts," marvels Dr. Lee Min Ku, a Seoul surgeon whose patients are mostly in their teens or 20s. "They tell the doctor, using scientific words, which surgery method to use." But despite the medical knowledge they bring to the clinics, many teens still show their age. "They end up handing you a magazine," says Lee, "and asking for T.V. star Kim Nam Ju's eyes."
Back to my public speaking class. On Saturday, they will present their persuasive speech, and I went over their topics with them individually. One female student handed in the topic "The importance of outward appearance". I got her to clarify what she meant by this, and what exactly she wanted to persuade the audience about.
"Well," she told me, "I know many people will say how inner beauty is really the important thing. But I do not agree with this. Outward attractiveness is what really matters, because your outward looks show what you are like on the inside."
This may not be a very difficult argument to make--after all, her audience is a classroom full of Korean high school students.