In South Korea, what is considered attractive in men is slowly but steadily changing.
Although masculinity has always been something that has been coveted in the country, which places high value on having a largely traditional and patriarchal society, K-pop stars have been changing those ideals. The macho types from the 1990s and 2000s have swiftly been replaced by the pretty boy types of today.
Boy bands like Beast, Shinee and Super Junior have set the stage for what is today considered handsome in South Korea. They are fashion forward, prettily handsome and hip. These pretty boys have also captured the world by storm as fans have flocked toward K-pop and K-drama stars and their unique looks. They have even inspired other acts from other nations, such as the androgynous girl group Acrush from China.
This popular trend has made such an impact in South Korea that there has been a surge of plastic surgery among young males. Men throughout the country have strived to achieve the K-pop pretty boy look, which is commonly credited to actor Bae Yong-joon.
Joy Kang, the CEO of Eunogo, a Korean plastic surgery concierge service based in Singapore, stated that the ideal is different for Korean men nowadays and that if a man is “pretty,” it means that he’s handsome. She continued that Korean men prefer to look more feminine than men from other cultures.
Plastic surgeon Dr. Lee Hyun-taek stated Korean men of the past would get plastic surgery to look more masculine, but today’s men have great interest in cosmetics like BB cream and skincare products so that they can appear more androgynous. He added that they aim for more of the look of celebrities and that plastic surgery trends are heading more toward the feminine look. The doctor followed up his statement by mentioning actor Jan Dong-gun as the prime pretty boy ideal of South Korea.
Several cosmetic procedures have grown in popularity at Banobagi Plastic Surgery, including facial contouring, rhinoplasty, body contouring and eyelid surgery. Dr. Lee stated that Koreans have flat faces but young men are striving for a more three-dimensional face when they seek plastic surgery.
Kang claimed that K-pop stars have sharp V-line jaws with flawless skin and very masculine bodies, while women have the “bagel girl” look, which is essentially a baby-faced appearance while looking glamorous and having a sexy body. She stated that men have a similar ideal to be cute and young-looking while having a muscular and toned body.
Kang also pointed out the trend known as six-pack surgery. This is the type of surgery a young man would get if they want to achieve six-pack abs but simply don’t have the time to develop them on their own. Liposuction can achieve the look because it involves shaping the stomach into a six-pack.
Male breast reduction is another common type of liposuction in South Korea. It is infrequently discussed but not uncommon for men to undergo the procedure, according to Kang.
Another popular trend among South Korean men these days are anti-aging procedures. At a spa called Chaum Clinic, clients can pay as much as $20,000 per day for primarily non-invasive treatments that can help combat the natural effects of aging. Dr. Jin Seok-in, head of plastic surgery at the clinic, stated that the most popular procedures for men at Chaum include Botox and other fillers.
Dr. Lee states that, since 2002, when he started his career as a plastic surgeon, the number of male plastic surgery patients has increased between five to 10 times.
A representative from Chaum Clinic reported that the majority of patients who visit the spa are between the ages of 40 and 50 and that 40 percent of them are male.