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Photo Series Critiques South Korea’s Plastic Surgery Mania

From i-D: “In South Korea, 20 percent of women have had cosmetic work done, the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons reports. That's an eyebrow-raising number. Particularly because, despite all our plastic surgery TV shows (Nip/ Tuck, Botched, Dr. 90210) and Kylie Jenner lip challenges, only five percent of American women have undergone cosmetic work. In fact, South Korea has unofficially earned the moniker ‘Plastic Surgery Capital of the World,’ it being commonplace there for girls to receive nose jobs as high school graduation gifts.

New York-based visual artist Eui-Jip Hwang is tackling his birth country's omnipresent beauty industry in his series Live Your Dream. He hopes to critique the emphasis on appearance in South Korea (where many employers require job applicants to submit a photo of themselves with their resume) with his series of utopian, surrealist images—using graphic design, found ads, and before-and-after images to highlight the sterilized perfection the plastic surgery industry is selling the country.

‘As an artist, I investigate the influence of images on our society,’ the recent School of Visual Arts graduate explains. And South Korea's beauty industry sure has had a profound influence. So much so that it has managed to bring men into the market and create a sizeable demand for men's makeup, selling whitening creams specifically targeted for them. ‘Although the beauty market for men in Korea was implemented only few years ago, and was not in demand, the corporations penetrated their minds through consistent advertising,’ Hwang explains. ‘Now, Korea even hires male celebrities to advertise female products, inspiring each other and blurring gender norms in beauty.’ Hwang's collages investigate everything from the Western-influenced ideal of ‘peach’-colored skin to modified eye color and the $5 trillion dollars South Koreans spend on cosmetic surgeries every year in the hopes of obtaining happiness… (For the full story and more images, click here)

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