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According to Time.com, the primary audience obsessed with surgically altering its physical appearance is young adults, particularly in the 18- to 24-year-old range. The Web site credits this to unrealistic programs like “Nip/Tuck” and “Dr. 90210,” in which going under the knife is a normal part of daily life. What they fail to acknowledge is that in many parts of the world, cosmetic surgery is considered normal.
The demand for plastic surgery may have increased in the United States, but that does not mean that this obsession doesn’t exist in other parts of the world. “The fascination [of 18- to 24-year-olds] with plastic surgery is a decidedly U.S. phenomenon.” Americans’ bafflement at this statement shows that we are sheltered from other cultures that may embrace or condone going under the knife. We may be right to be appalled, but perhaps we should shift our focus to the fact that teenagers as young as 14 are doing it in Asia.
The most common surgeries in Asia range from blepharoplasty, in which a crescent-shaped piece of skin is sutured to create a fold in the upper eyelid, to calf-slimming, in which the nerve in the leg is severed, causing calf muscles to atrophy and shrink. Not only are these procedures painful, but they are also extremely expensive. Blepharoplasty may cost anywhere between $200 and $3,000; nose enlargement and reductions cost $1,100-3,700; and calf slimming costs about $2,000.
Major Western influence in Asia, especially in South Korea and Japan, has resulted in an obsession with eyes. It has become such a norm among the South Korean population that eye jobs have become a favorite high-school graduation gift from proud parents. “Teenagers are plastic-surgery experts,” said Dr. Lee Min Ku, a Seoul surgeon whose patients are usually in the teen- to 20s-age range. “They tell the doctor, using scientific words, which surgery method to use.”
Moreover, many of the surgeries that are gaining popularity are much more extreme and painful than the typical boob or nose job that we’re freaking out about here. Surgeries like hymen reconstruction, in which vaginal tissue is reattached (considered to restore virginity), and calf slimming are gaining momentum in Asian countries. In Japan, China, Indonesia and Korea, where virginity is highly prized, young women go in for hymen reconstruction, while men ask for penis-enlargement procedures in time for their wedding night.
It is frightening that this is a cultural norm, but more appalling is the lack of awareness among Americans. We speak as if the world does not extend outside our borders, and we are utterly speechless that 18- to 24-year-olds are getting plastic surgery, who, may I remind you, are still considered adults. Perhaps Americans can steer away from their ignorant reputation by educating themselves on cultural norms everywhere else in this versatile world.
My purpose is not to bash or condone plastic surgery. I strongly believe that natural beauty should be embraced, regardless of one’s ethnicity. At the same time, I am not about to discriminate against those who have had work done, as self-esteem, circumstances and individual situations are all factors that should be considered. However, the hand of ignorance has, once again, slapped itself onto the face of America, as there are many more appalling things in the world. Acting as if breast augmentation is the next plague sounds a bit ridiculous to me. Don’t you think?

Elysabeth Hahm is a second-year political science and literary journalism double-major. She can be reached at ehahm@uci.edu.

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