Portraits of Miss Korea 2013 Contestants Spark Discussion on Plastic Surgery


The web is abuzz over newly released photographs of Miss Korea 2013 beauty pageant contestants, and not in a way the photographer or the pageant were expecting. The photographs have sparked heated discussion on the topics of plastic surgery and racism.

The whole thing appears to have gotten started over on a Japanese blog, which posted portraits of 20 of the beauty contestants along with a comment about how they all look so strangely similar to one another.

The photographs went viral after they were shared on Reddit with the title: “Korea’s plastic surgery mayhem is finally converging on the same face.” This post sparked a discussion on the popularity of plastic surgery in Korea and whether or not it’s racist to say that all of the faces look eerily similar.

A Seoul resident with the username HotBrownie weighed in with the following comment:

You arent racist. Those women in fact do look unnervingly similar and yes, Koreans think so too. This is because they all get the exact same plastic surgeries and the surgeons follow the same formulas for noses and eyes and everything else they’ve had done (fillers, cheek and forehead implants, eye surgery, nose surgery, jaw reduction, breast job, calf muscle job, fat grafting etc). Every single one of them has had nose and eye surgery. Those faces costed those girls thousands. Also dont underestimate makeup, they’ve got it caked on in a similar style.

Other photographs were soon presented to show that no, the women did not all look eerily similar “pre-transformation”:


Another user named NinjaFridge then took the photographs and turned some of them into this animated GIF that has the eyes of the portraits lined up with one another:

According to the New York Times, a 2009 survey found that one in every five women in the Seoul (the capital of South Korea) between the ages of 19 and 49 have had some form of plastic surgery done to their bodies. It’s a striking fact that has even spawned a Tumblr page dedicated to before-and-after photos of the widely done procedures.

  • Ingemar Smith

    Bravo! Petapixel, the NYTimes and other media all assiduously avoided the elephant in the room. These asian women and girls are trying to change their faces to look more European. Let’s talk about that.

  • Norshan Nusi

    As if they are sisters O_O

  • hukes

    Nah, it’s just that cultural thing and we think they all look alike.

  • Duke Shin

    Too many chicks have surgery here in Korea. Even some guys do it too.

    I just wish they’d be happy with the face that came with them.

  • lidocaineus

    They are? That may be true, but where in the article does it say that?

  • Kgirl

    I believe it’s quite ethnocentric to claim these women are trying to look European. Being a Korean American and having lived in South Korea for a couple of years, I learned that the standard of beauty does not rely on looking like Europeans. Rather, following the trend of what South Koreans recently find to be beautiful (e.g., white skin with no freckles or moles, slim faces, big eyes, sharp noses) just follows a formula. I’m sure in a decade the plastic surgery industry will have a different brand of beauty to sell.

  • 9inchnail

    That is true. In Asia they have developed this idea of beauty in which you have to look as european as possible. They want bigger eyes, higher cheekbones and so on. I’ve seen a documentary about this.

    But what’s the problem here? It’s their choice. If they find that look appealing, let them do what they want. I mean, we look as exotic to them as they for us. Propably even more so because Asians all have black hair and dark eyes, no variations. Europeans, especially northern europeans must look quite interesting to them. What’s racist about that?

  • 9inchnail

    “(e.g., white skin with no freckles or moles, slim faces, big eyes, sharp noses)”

    That sound pretty “european-ish” to me

  • Nira Gel

    Blonde caucasian porn stars look alike to me!

  • nameless_asian

    Not limited to European look only, other races also have the big eye look for example. But I do agree, nothing racist about this. They link it to racism to stop others from talking about it, as nobody would talk about racism.

  • lidocaineus

    My question still stands – where in the article is this stated clearly?

  • lidocaineus

    That sounds like any number of things to me, including anime characters. Maybe they’re all aiming to look like their favorite Japanese animated characters, or my Mongolian-background neighbor, or any of my mixed race friends.

    I’m not refuting what you’re saying, but unless the article comes out and says something definitive, you can substitute anything in there..

  • Amadeusz Leonardo Juskowiak

    no one said it is written in the article here

  • Rob S

    Clearly discriminatory

    Not a single blonde or redhead :)

  • dk2020

    Not really .. I can clearly tell they are Korean than European ..

  • dk2020

    Plastic surgery is common in all beauty pageants .. how is this shocking?

    If they all look the same .. the one with the best personality should win ..

  • Guu

    It’s less about plastic surgery (yes, the surgery is HUGE in South Korea but it doesn’t create clones) and more about the fact that the make-up artist had done everyone exactly the same strong make-up!
    For equal chances for winning. Not much wrong with it.

  • Andrew Buckley

    freaky gif

  • Adam Cross

    because blondes and redheads are really common in Asia…..

  • Rob S

    oh come on did I have to write SNARK??

  • ChengHoo Sew

    Not just Korea, Japan and Hong Kong and many other countries too. But they cleverly did it to look different plus we all recognize people differently and that’s why it’s harder to tell people from the country you seldom expose to apart. It is also why many years ago western used to think Chinese all look alike. But anyway, for me this kinda plastic surgery is equivalent to people that permanently wears makeup. Not everyone was born looking good. Let’s says your parent gave you an ugly car, wouldn’t you wanna modify it?

  • Mansgame

    I think they looked much better pre-surgery. Now they look like cartoon characters.

  • Guest

    Same deal in many parts of Africa. Women there, especially celebrities, bleach their skin to look whiter, because all they see on TV are glamourous white Westerners.

  • Namfon Natrakul

    On the contrary, I think the perception of beauty in Asia is rather starkly different from that in the west. High cheekbone is in fact a big no no. How do I know? Well, that’s why I’m hating my cheekbones! Not to mention the jawline. We hate hate strong jaws. Someone like Kate Moss or Zoey Deschanel and many others with a square face will never even be considered good looking here. Round face is very common and that’s why it’s also a no no. Without a perfectly oval face, you can never be considered pretty or beautiful. That’s why they all have the same perfectly oval face.

    With regards to eyes and nose, yes we do prefer bigger eyes and a sharp nose, but that’s only because some of us are BORN with them and they are less common. Deep- set eyes are not what considered pretty here.

    While Eurasian celebs are everywhere in my country, they aren’t in Korea or China and even here, those who look more European are generally less popular.

    You all know our take on skin colour and no no it’s not from the Europeans. It’s the skin colour of the rich from the ancient time til present day. Those who work in the field and don’t have cars are almost always darker.

  • MichelleD

    Look at the gif, for heaven’s sake. It’s not possible for them to all look that much alike, plastic surgery or no. The gif shows the same mouth & teeth, the same chin/cheeks/jaw line, and almost all of the same eyes over and over. It’s CLEARLY photoshop behind this.

  • amama maite

    No son todas gemelas univitelinas?…

  • Bry

    well.. I just want one.. all I need :)

  • Richard Ford

    In China the most popular plastic surgery clinics are all run by Koreans too. They really have a global brand in respect throughout Asia as being good at it. Almost all the girls in my office (Beijing) have had the double eye lid surgery as well.

  • Richard Ford

    Dude – some guys? Korean men are some of the most effete men I have met anywhere in the world. They really need a dose of what it takes to be even a slightly bit masculine.

  • think about the kids

    it’s going to be funny when the kids come out completely different looking than the parents.

  • Dozy Meda

    These are ten girls in the pictures above, not twenty (!). Please check again. The girls you find in row 1 are the same as in row 3. Same is true for row 2 and 4. Only the outfits changed.

  • Dozy

    Exactly.. European.

  • peter

    make up is standard for all contestants, there is nothing to see here.

  • pethr

    “Pre-transformation” photos are said to be completely different women from completetly different competition. The article would probably use some more fact checking…

  • lidocaineus

    Did you miss the entire point of this thread? The post by @Ingemar Smith that started it all? I swear, basic reading comprehension is really lacking around here.

  • gochugogi

    Most of the women in the Miss America pageant look almost the same too. Miss Korea is not different in this regard. Making yourself look as close to an idealized standard of beauty is merely part of pageant culture.

  • uwhothinkeuropeanlooksbetter

    Not sure if you are blind or not but they just look very “Asian” to me instead of European..I seriously don’t think Asian girls are trying to look European in any ways. Big eyes and whiter skin =/= European. Those are just their concepts of beauty and it doesn’t need to be European they are thinking of in mind. Certainly European has influenced part of their sense of beauty but Asian women have developed their own sense of beauty from ages ago which has nothing to do with European. To Asians, every white people looks kind of the same as well. And they generally consider white female(they can’t really distinguish between American and European) to be fat and stupid. Stop having such high regard of European’s look..this article is not being racist but you are. European doesn’t look better than Asian, period.

  • Teep

    The fact that you think so proves two things: 1) That the point is well made 2) You didn’t follow the links

    There are twenty different contestants.

  • vince

    Exactly. People have to realize it is NOT about looking more “Western” This attitude has been perpetuated by Western people themselves to make themselves feel a superiority over Asians. The idea of bigger eyes and an oval face is considered attractive but it is not based on Western influences. If I hear someone saying a girl got eye surgery to look more “western”, the person loses all credibility with me. Come on, people, drop these imperialist/semi-racist attitudes.

  • dk2020

    lols .. weak stereotypes ..

  • Gary Patrick Norris

    Look at all the white people who think Koreans want to be white. Lol. Why not post next about how white people think anime characters are white. That one always gets the racism oit in the open. While Korean plastic surgery has become focused on a srandardized “face line” it’s ludicrous to assume the people getting surgeries are doing so “to look more European”. The claim says more about the people making it than it does Koreans and ignores the everyday oppressions Korean men and women encounter that are distinct from white concerns. It’s as if white women don’t think Koreans have a well-developed sense of aesthetics and beauty that is Korean. Also, stop policing the world as consumers. It rather colonialist.

  • Duke Shin

    Stereotypes? I’m on the bus back to the apartment and I can spot 7 girls who had their eyelashes and nose redone. Finding them is like solving the puzzles on a restaurant placemat.

  • a

    i think he was replying to Richard with the tired gender stereotypes

  • Yang

    It’s clearly NOT photoshop behind this… Have you ever been to or lived in Korea? The same surgeon creates the same face over and over and over again, you can see the carbon copies on the street. Granted its not that often you see a girl whose entire face has been redone, so she is easy to spot compared to the normal people on the subway, it’s clearly a LOOK and it’s one that has been perfected. I wouldn’t be surprised if the surgeons actually used the same measurements for each girl. Such as, only 12cm for the chin is acceptable, only 12 inches for the forehead (when the bring the hairline down), the ‘v’ shape is probably measured out identically which is why when the eyes are lined up the face shape looks identical. You can see this ‘beauty’ anywhere in Seoul. It’s obvious and so unoriginal, that’s how you know a doctor made it.

  • Yang

    Ingemar Smith is making these assumptions most likely based off people she has neither talked to or possibly even seen before. So that is silly in itself and I’m not sure why she is priding herself on the fact either. They say 8 in ten Korean women have their eyes done. Plastic surgery is a form of self expression the same way tattoos are, while I find neither attractive personally – to be able to lump all people together in the same category as “wishing to be European” is past ignorant. There are very beautiful natural Korean women. I feel each woman has her own look she is going for. Obviously big eyes is not a natural Korean trait or the rates for that procedure wouldn’t be so high. However, having recently been to Thailand, I saw many natural Asian women with big eyes. So we may say that women receiving plastic surgery want to look like someone else, but it doesn’t mean we know who each and every woman in particular had in mind when she went to undergo her procedures. And having said that, I have seen many, many of these plastic girls on the street. And yes, frankly, some of them have no distinguishing features, are they white, are they Asian, are they mixed race? I’ve seen girls with faces so full of plastic, with more pointy and turned up noses than 90% of Westerners. Are those girls trying to look Western, I would say, Yeah, they probably are. Can we argue that a pointy turned up nose is an Asian feature, no we probably can’t. But then all women here in Seoul aren’t looking for that face. So let’s stop making generalizations to such twisted degrees and lets start addressing the real problem! Why is this okay – who has made this okay? And why is Korean society so nonchalant about women who remake their faces and join a beauty pageant? Why are there posters all around Seoul promoting this as a healthy ideal? And why do women want to look like this? We shouldn’t waste our breath caring about who these women want to look like… We should ask ourselves why society is allowing this to become the mainstream of ideal Korean beauty? The same way Americans should have asked themselves 10 years why breast implants were the way to perfection? Is this really the beauty standard and ideal we should be settling for in the modern world?

  • Yang

    I would say you calling all white women “the same, fat and stupid,” would be racist all on its own. While I agree with some of your remarks, I would also say – when you offend others your opinion will clearly matter very little to them.

  • Yang

    Namfon – I very much agree with you. I think some people just think they know, but really they have no idea. Korean people naturally have high cheek bones, western people don’t always. I would say your ideas about western to Korean beauty ideals are exact! I’m so puzzled how Kate Moss can be a beauty icon – but if she were Korean, she would be another “nobody” walking down the street. It seems to me both Korean men and women have learned to judge themselves far too harshly and that’s how this whole debacle with plastic surgery has erupted. The people’s own inner hatred or criticisms have just gone too far and in many ways they only have themselves to blame for this sad phenomenon. I believe many Westerners would find natural Korean beauty far superior to this awful version of what Korean people have decided is the GOLD standard for beauty. But that just shows the disconnect between foreigners and Koreans all the more. And it goes to show me personally, that Koreans are looking for approval from every country, not just western, not just Korean. I think it’s more about a drive to always show the BEST even if it’s not real.

  • Yang

    No I wouldn’t want to modify my ugly car… That is a terrible analogy as well. A car lasts for 20 years at BEST. Your face is FOREVER and it’s not a machine. It ages, it changes, it can’t be picked apart every 5-10 years and remodeled. That’s no more okay for your bones, than it is for your skin and one day I hate to see what happens to these poor girls faces, when they start to age. Just like breast implants, this will be a lifelong maintenance, that won’t be easy or pain free to keep up with.

  • Yang

    American beauty pageant contestants have their breasts modified, or possibly a nose job. Also not OKAY. But EVERY contestant is not having their entire face reconstructed (eyes, nose, hairline, jaw shaved, teeth done, lips injected, etc…) claiming to look ethnically Mexican, European, etc… and then entering a BEAUTY pagaent. If your not sure what I’m talking about why don’t you google Miss Korea 2012 and read about her. All this pageant is doing is reinforcing to Korean women everywhere to think that this is the highest level of beauty a Korean woman can aspire to. And since not one of them really looks that way naturally, it’s clearly setting the Korean world up for 1) failure or 2) self-loathing. Both of which would SUCK to have to feel about yourself every. single. day. Think about the future – not just the now.

  • Dude

    The preference of lighter skin is not really influenced by Europeans but with the age-old perception of class. In hotter parts of the world, peasants who worked in fields were tanned and the aristocracy were pale.
    Same as in some colder countries where a tanned skin would imply that you can afford vacation. Not sure if this is valid today though.