July 22, 2013

Arnab and the Plastic Factory: BK Plastic Surgery Museum

The subway station in Seoul's Sinsa neighbourhood is a sight to behold, emblazoned with advertisements of plastic surgery clinics and procedures from one end to the other. Almost every location marked on the neighbourhood maps placed near the exits is a cosmetic surgery clinic. The so-called 'Beauty Belt' plays a significant role in churning out the figurines that strut the streets of Seoul with coffee, gigantic phone, and designer purse in hand and high heels on foot. Korean men also go in for cosmetic surgery, but there are some battles that cannot be won.

The Beauty Korea (BK) Hospital occupies a complete sixteen story tower near Sinsa station, with one floor operating as both a consultation centre and museum. Before going in for a consultation, prospective surgery recipients can browse various forms of body modification and learn a little about the options available to them in their unending quest to appear attractive and desirable.

I explained to the lifelike mannequin standing at the entrance that I wanted to visit the plastic surgery museum. She called someone who knew English and handed me the phone. "Do you want a consultation or just to visit the museum?" she inquired coolly. I did not take offence. She was on the phone and thus could not see that I had already won the genetic lottery. I gave my answer and was told to take the escalator up to museum.

At the reception area a mother and daughter pair were solemnly awaiting their consultation. One of the three identical receptionists pointed out the museum entrance to me. It was quite small but informative, as eyes, nose, hair, face, breasts, hips, and bottoms were all covered. There were diagrams, tools of the trade, documentary videos, and even a few hands on exhibits demonstrating how certain body parts could be augmented.

A glass box where patients drop pieces of their shaved off jawlines eerily quoted a Korean proverb about tigers shedding their skin as they enter the afterlife. The descriptions about each form of surgery frequently mentioned how Western (eg white) standards of beauty appealed to the many Koreans who are intoxicated with improving their appearance to gain a competitive edge over others. However with a few more visits to BK Hospital and its ilk the others may end up looking just like them, nullifying their advantage.


"Oh sexy eyes, sexy nose, sexy mouth, don't you know" ~ lyrics from K-pop girl group T-ara's song 'Sexy Love'