As big as the market for plastic surgery is here in America, it’s even bigger in South Korea. The nation of 50 million has been called the world’s “capital” of cosmetic enhancement, with some reports indicating that more than 60% of young women in their late 20s have undergone some form of plastic surgery. An obsession with physical appearance is an intrinsic part of the culture, and it’s not exactly kept under wraps, either: Seoul’s subway stations are littered with ads for the procedures, dramatic before-and-afters of chin reductions and tapered jaws — a wink to how beautiful you could be, too, if only if only you got a little bit of your face cut off.
The pressure to be prettier is on — and nothing is a better example of that than SixBomb, a K-pop girl group that made headlines recently with its ongoing plastic surgery “project.” In February, the band released a music video titled “Becoming Prettier (Before),” which depicts its four members getting facials and having their nails done, in between long scenes of them flipping through books filled with… faces. Lots and lots of human faces, from which they chose features they’d like to see on themselves, to be completed ahead of their next video.
SixBomb promised that they’d return in a month’s time to unveil the second installment of the project, and they delivered. On March 16, the women released the follow-up to “Becoming Prettier (Before),” “Becoming Prettier (After),” which shows them visiting plastic surgery clinics, entering the operating room, and, ultimately, revealing their new faces. All four members underwent extensive plastic surgery — nose jobs, breast implants, the popular “double eyelid” procedure — to the tune of 100 million won, which comes out to around $90,000.
Footing the bill was the band’s management, including head manager Kim Il-Woong, who AFP quoted as saying of the inevitable controversy, “We haven't committed any crimes. Our only crime would be talking about it in such an open manner.” A prominent Seoul plastic surgery clinic confirmed to the news agency that SixBomb had, indeed, undergone their respective transformations at the business, though that representative made clear that all the operations were conducted “above the waist.”
The band's singer, Dain, was quoted as saying, "I really love my new face and am proud of how good I look on TV screens," adding she'd be happy with “any kind of public attention, good or bad.” But it sounds like the publicity stunt wasn't as empowering for everyone in the group. SixBomb member Soa said, "I really liked and was satisfied with my previous eyes, so I had to think long and hard before deciding to take part in this concept."
When it comes to plastic surgery, we're of the "you do you" mindset, but as the cultural value on outward beauty increases, the line between personal choice and societal pressure gets a hell of a lot blurrier. If nothing else, let SixBomb serve as that cautionary tale.