I wanted to share this photograph in light of a recent article in the New Yorker about the prevailing culture of plastic surgery in South Korea that made me really sad. My parents are from Seoul and moved to the States in the 1970s, long before plastic surgery rose in popularity. From time to time, I think about the alternate world where my parents decided to stay in Seoul, and wonder how differently I could have turned out - in my mind and body - because of that choice.
According to the article, and unsurprisingly (at least to me), South Korea has the highest rate of plastic surgery per capita in the world. The New Yorker quoted a psychology professor from Yonsei University, who said that "in Korea, we don’t care what you think about yourself. Other people’s evaluations of you matter more.” I know this to be true to a certain degree, based upon my summer abroad in Seoul in 2000. I recall that my waist size, complexion, facial features, and skin tone were all topics open to discussion, from extended relatives to sales clerks. The longer I was in Seoul, the more insecure I became about my own looks. I started comparing myself to the throngs of other young women in Seoul, who appeared gorgeous and composed and perfectly matte, even in the ponderous summer heat waves that plagued the city during my sojourn.
I wanted to write this post because I recognize that it is incredibly hard for women to accept themselves as they are. I wanted to write this post because I have spent most of my life wanting to permanently change some aspect of my body. I wanted to write this post because as I approach my mid-thirties, I am finally starting to understand that taking care of my body is an act of love.
I try to always remember the unintended "beauty" advice my father gave me years ago. He told me that my health was the most important thing in life. He is so right. We celebrated his 78th (!) birthday last month, and is in really good health and spirits. Our family is so fortunate.
I also came across these amazing photos of Korean "sea women" or haenyeo, also via The New Yorker. These are a group of tough and brave women who dive into deep waters to retrieve seafood -- without the aid of breathing apparatus. According to the article, most of the women are over sixty years old. I want to be as strong and fearless as they are as I grow older.