May 27, 2011  •  In Asian, Beauty, Korean, Personal

The (Incorrect) Western Interpretation of Asian Plastic Surgery

A few days ago, CNN Asia posted a video and an accompanying article titled “Plastic surgery boom as Asians seek ‘western’ look” which tells the story of Lee Min Kyong, who opted to have Asian blepharoplasty — otherwise known as double eyelid surgery — at the age of 12 in order to “westernize her eyes.”

This really pissed me off.

As I have written in the past, I am well aware that East Asia has a disturbing rate of cosmetic surgery. I also believe that many people who choose to go under the knife are — in my opinion — too young to make such decisions.

But I wasn’t pissed about this.

I was angry at CNN’s assumption (and the resulting skewed report) that Asians have plastic surgery in order to look more “western,” or “white.”

Westerners did not invent the double eyelid. Many Asians naturally have it. The reason that so many Asians prefer the double eyelid to the “monolid” is because it lifts the extra skin and fat on the upper eyelid and creates a crease which gives the illusion of larger eyes.

Large eyes, a well-defined, pointed nose, and a smaller chin are standards of beauty in women for many cultures. And they have been what is considered the ideal beauty in Asia for centuries, well before its assimilation with the West.

Now I’m sure that some Asians who go under the knife do so because they want to look white. But I can assure you that these people are few and far between. The vast majority of Asians who get plastic surgery do so in order to become more aesthetically-pleasing while retaining their Asian features, not to look more western. And most Asians do not think that being caucasian does not automatically make one more beautiful.

Here are two of Korea’s biggest celebrities, Song Hye Kyo and Lee Hyori.
Neither of them look “white,” in my opinion.

While the Asian idea of beauty may have been influenced by the West over the years, the idea that Asian women are trying mimic caucasians is an incorrect interpretation. An Asian woman getting double eyelid surgery, a nosejob, etc is rather an attempt to enhance one’s features in a society that overly glamorizes beauty and celebrity culture.

Likewise, an Asian dying his/her hair, wearing colored contacts, etc are not in efforts to look more western. They are merely ways of standing out and experimenting with your looks in a sea of black-haired, brown-eyed people.

In my opinion, the notion that Asians have plastic surgery to look white is like saying caucasians who tan and get lip fillers are trying to look black.

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109 Responses to “The (Incorrect) Western Interpretation of Asian Plastic Surgery”

  1. In the spirit of disclosure, I’ve never had cosmetic surgery, nor do I personally know any other Asians who have (or perhaps more accurately, if they have they didn’t tell me). So my personal experience on the topic may be limited. However, I agree with you – I don’t think those who do get surgery are so blind to think “Oh hey, now I look Caucasian” nor do I think that is their intent (at least for most of them). My whole immediate family has the eyelid crease and I highly doubt anyone has ever mistaken us for a Caucasian family, haha. I would love to hear articles where they got quotes from people saying “I got this surgery to look less Asian and more Western” because so far, I’ve only seen this as an assumption by the writer, not as verified reason.

    • Kathy Liu says:

      I think many are missing the point. The desire to have a more pointed nose and the second eye lid is definitely based on exposure to the west and the desire to be unique and aligned to celebrity. This trend started nearly two or three generations ago, to give the appearance of being mixed (not completely white). Some of you may be to young to have experienced this, but back years ago while I was doing my stint in the fashion world (I use to catalog model), only the mixed asian girls were booking jobs, not the full bloods like myself. This pressure was caused by our male dominant society that made the idea that a trophy catch was a blond haired blue eyed girl, as they represented freedom, being modern and wealth. Since that wasn’t as attainable for men, half casts became the next best thing. Also, back then, marrying a white man was a symbol of advancement because so many of our men didn’t have the wealth white men represented (I remember saying to myself… I want a western husband… not even really understanding why at the time… now I know). So with generational attitudes, which have now changed to an extent (I see a lot of asian girls dating not only our men and whites, but also non-white groups as attractive these days as well… my daughter married a wonderful man from the Bahamas… Love him:-) my generation of the past has basically embedded the current concept of beauty… the large eyes like anime, the light skin that represents no field work or being half and the straight nose that a vast majority of us from Hong Kong don’t usually have. These desires did not manifest themselves on their own (we didn’t just wake up and say… hey… let me cut my eyes to look bigger… what a good idea..!!! LOL… Actually in a vast number of our cultures, big eyes represent monsters and horror… hello!!!!). To say this isn’t caused by western influence to me seems, virtually ridiculous. Its the foolish ideals we have passed down from my generation with the desire to be the special one that is selected for marriage or a good job position and generations of male dominance… That’s the facts!

  2. Melinda says:

    I saw the same clip and I think it was pretty clear when the girl was thumbing through a magazine, pointed the white model and said she wanted to look like her. I’m not saying all Asians want exactly that, but from the doctors quotes and the little girl’s express pointing to the white model, I understand why the writer (who is also Asian) would write this.

    Personally, I find it sad when anyone of any ethnicity believes they have to have plastic surgery to be more beautiful.

    • I just re-watched the video and while they stop at the page of a white model, the girl never says she wants to look like her. Rather, when they compare two Asian models — one with a double eyelid and the other without — the girl says she thinks the one with the double eyelid is prettier because of her eyes.

      I’m not so sure about the doctor, but I guess he gets those types of patients, and he’s only one doctor. All I know is that most Asians who would get cosmetic surgery would be horrified at this video.

      I personally don’t have anything against plastic surgery as long as it makes you happier and more self-confident…the only line I would draw would be in extreme cases like body dysmorphic disorder.

      • Melinda says:

        Yes, you’re right. I suppose that shows my unconscious biases and how I lumped it together in my memory. Also interesting, I was more mad at celebrity culture in America for not celebrating more looks – so my bias also made me more reactive to blaming whites.

        Why do you think the writer would be so quick to put this spin on the story? Is it just another viewpoint, or do you perhaps suspect that she was put up to it?

        Great discussion!

        • This topic has actually been around for years. If you google it, you can find tons of blog posts, forum posts, and articles talking about how Asians who get cosmetic surgery are NOT trying to look white.

          I suspect that either the reporter or her higher-ups got the idea to resurrect the issue because recently, an article ran in the NYTimes talking about how the nouveau-rich in China are turning to plastic surgery in great numbers (and even going on “medical tours” to Korea):

          And while I said that I don’t have a problem with those who get plastic surgery, I do think there’s a cultural problem in China, Korea, Japan, etc where plastic surgery is SOOOO rampant.

        • Ade says:

          You are mad at American celebrity culture for not celebrating more looks? Can you mention any country in this world that celebrates more looks than the U.S.? You can find celebrities of all shapes, sizes, colors, backgrounds etc., that are considered beautiful. And why do people always point at America like it’s their responsibility to be an example to everyone? Why is it their problem to take care of the whole world? I’m not American, but I can objectively say the U.S. gives you a chance to see all kinds of beauty. A country like Korea has much narrower standards.

          • SasakiKai says:

            American culture does not celebrate any Asian male looks. Specifically East Asian male. America has a long history of dehumanizing and villainizing and demeaning East Asian males. Take 2012 Red Dawn, Long Duk Dong, Short Round, Fu Manchu, Rambo, Iron Man, Asian guy in Hangover, as examples.

            Even guys like Rain or Lee Byung Hun are still the foreign semi-villain or anti-hero and of course no desirable female is paired with them nor are they ever three dimensional characters.

            Don’t get me started on how whitewashed world beauty standards are. This is all because of western imperialism and colonialism, which began 400 years ago, with whites lying, stealing, cheating, and sending diseases to other ethnic groups to wipe them out and steal their lands (Americas and Australia) and sending drugs to East Asia to help them colonize East Asia and rape and pillage (Opium) or enslave other ethnicites (blacks).

            And to this day, propaganda psychological media warfare against Asian males continues to try to make Asian males undesirable and brainwash Asian women not to like their own men.

      • Ashley says:

        I agree with your article to an extent. What I don’t understand is why you didnt mention the sheer reason MOST people get plastic surgery in the first place. I feel it’s because people want what they DON’T have. It’s human nature and clearly its not that Asians want to look white, but hello, white people have a double eyelid! Now that I am living in Korea, I feel more comfortable being white in the sense of not having a desire to be tanned. But as much as we want to change something about ourselves, we also want to be different. Maybe Asians are tired of looking alike and thats why they colour their hair, whiten their skin or get the double eyelid surgery….but when everyone does it, now they still all look similar. Im not saying the stereotype of “Asians all look alike” but their features are very similar to me unlike white people where there are more differences in eye colour and hair colour,

  3. Interesting. Good info. I appreciate you correcting this. I honestly wouldn’t have thought much about it, but it does add to the overwhelming hubris of the United States sometimes. Sadly not surprisingly.

  4. Gali says:

    I’m not going to comment on the whole of ethnicity issue but I do have to say that Lee Hyori is amazing. And actually she likes to comment quite a bit that she has a “Western” upper body but “Asian” lower half, I remember back in the day when Family Outing was still airing she used to get teased a lot about it… but this whole body thing is something I’ve never been able to understand, for me you just look like yourself and everyone is different. Same thing for eyelids, as you say there are tons of Asian people who have double eyelids and you can’t say they’re a Western thing! Right. So that went off on a tangent there… but really I started this comment just to say that Hyori will always be my Korean girlcrush, she’s just that amazing.

  5. Ang says:

    Snap – good points! I have always wondered the same thing about tanning, in particular.

  6. eemusings says:

    Hmm. The desire for lighter skin (among Chinese, Indians, and a host of other Asian cultures) though, would you not say that is a desire to conform to western beauty?

    • Twocents says:

      Seriously, this question has been asked repeatedly and I’m so tired explaining to you westerners one by one so be grateful you’re the last guy I’d explain it to. Now check the ancient paintigs of China, Japan, Korea- heck even places with darker skinned people like Thailand and Malaysia. Thousand years ago paintings that existed before westerners came to Asia in their “vini, vidi, vici” belief, would show you beautiful girls with white-skin or lifht color skin.
      This is because in farming world- people who are of noble born or rich are not required to work under the sun and thus manage to retain lighter skin color.
      This may surprise westerners themselves- but before industrial reform, when places like England still depends on their farming and agricultural business… Even on those places, they consider “tanned” skin to be beneath those of upper-class level. Why? Because only peasants spend time under the sun.
      Look at european paintings of their ancient royals- none of them are painted with tanned skins. So yes, the mentality existed in Europe too before the age of conquest.
      After the age of conquest- white people see those who has tans as “worldly”, so rich ad upper class because they can travel around the world(thus spend more time under the sun compared to their unlucky peers who stay at home). This is the start of tanned skin era, suddenly it’s prized by westerners.
      And thus you have white people trying to gain those tanned skin look, as if they’re trying to be black or mixed with black.
      Crystal clear?

  7. eemusings says:

    Ugh, can’t edit my comment. It just astounded me how so many of the skincare products when I visited Malaysia promised to whiten skin (being rather ghostly by nature, that’s the last thing I want, so it’s a good thing I didn’t run out of my own products while over there)

    • The desire for lighter skin actually goes back hundreds of years, when those of the lower class had darker/tanner skin from working outside. This was the same in western cultures, but while the west “grew out” of this trend, in Asia white skin continued to signify upper class in addition to purity for women.

      • peony says:

        i’d like to add that there’s always been that obsession with a snow white-like beauty in asia. dark hair, pale skin, red lips, etc.

        anyway, I see lots of articles calling out asians for skin lightening–whydotheydoit?dotheywanttolookmorecaucasian?isitselfhatred?–but none for tanning. this really gets me, since while some whitening products are harmful, you CAN whiten without getting something, like oh, i don’t know–SKIN CANCER.

        americans basically risk melanoma by baking themselves, yet no one thinks they want to look black or hispanic. WTF?

        • Anon says:

          This same obsession exists in Western culture, the tanning trend is already dying. Come to LA, for example, and you’ll see that everyone is pale again. Ever heard of Snow White? Perfect example of the same thing, but in Western culture with a European woman.

          Many southern and southeastern Europeans tan easily and have bronze skin tones, so when White people get tanned, they look like those other White people, honestly. They don’t even look remotely similar to a Black person. They might look like a White Hispanic person, but they’re White, too. So… they still look White.

          • Miw says:

            When asians get eyelid surgery they don’t look remotely white, they look like asians with double eyelids. There are many asians who have double eyelids naturally- mostly children, teenagers and people in their 20s. By the 40s, the skin tends to sag and the double eyelid is less visible.

            This surgery’s popularity has more to do with obsession with youth rather than trying to look white. In Japan anyway, it has more to do with the most valued type of woman being young, cute and childlike.

        • Again I fully agree..why would white people carp about other people wanting to look pale [ for their long standing cultural reason’s] …yet skip the fact that they [whites] flock to the sun and tanning stores nonstop to darken their entire skins…and somehow many even hold blacks and other dark skin people in contempt…BECAUSE of dark skin… go figure

  8. Bri says:

    To be honest, I think the image of beauty that Korean and asian women strive for, with the large eyes and pale complexion, is inherently Western-influenced and Caucasian. Present also is Western influence in the Korean education system’s pushing students to speak fluent English at a very young age, and Korean commercialism and celebrity media. Koreans may not pinpoint and say “I want to look American,” but the face of beauty that media presents to them says otherwise.

    In the end though, we all desire what we can’t have. Regardless of where this obsession originated from, as you’ve pointed out in previous articles, it’s definitely an appalling thing when plastic surgery is used so frequently and haphazardly. We have no right to tamper with what God has given us.

    As a half-Korean American and a teenager I find it such a struggle to resist defining parameters for beauty, especially with celebrities glamorized in magazines and the redundancy of cliches like “everyone is beautiful in their own way.” At the same time, I find it hard to identify young Koreans who would go to great lengths (even if they don’t believe plastic surgery is a big deal) to essentially change their face. From talking with Korean friends and cousins from Korea, I do find that Koreans in general are very into staying with the popular opinion, music or celebrity. I know I am exaggerating and stereotyping, but to many Koreans it’s completely unacceptable to be individualistic, to look different, to not be successful (in the traditional sense of good education, good job and family). Therein lies the (what I believe to be infamous) criticism that Koreans and other asians have of other people — but on the flip side, also their ambition and drive.

    But don’t get me wrong, I’m completely proud to be a Korean. I just feel the grounds of modern-day Korean society can be too obsessive and sickening.

    On the same note, please check out this documentary-in-the-making that was created by a young American living in Korea. She aims to provide an intimate look into Korean obsessions about education and beauty. I feel like these topics rarely receive much attention in America and the filmmaker calls to light so many tragic realities young Korean students face but seem not to realize is shaping their lives.

    • Suzan says:

      I agree with you, Bri. Your comment was very well-written! But thank you for including information about the documentary on Korean education. I found it interesting and decided to back the project!

  9. passer by says:

    ASIAN women are stone beautiful and they command a very large and noticeable amount of interest (especially here in the states),imo because of a seemingly incredible amount of beauty,gentleness and femininity (which are extremely desireable attributes and qualities to have) They don’t need to emmulate anyone and there seems to be a growing sentiment of jealousy,envy etc.against them.Just my observations,but if they say asian women are trying to mime western beauty does that in turn mean that if western women are trying to get thinner then western women are trying to emmulate asian women? You can see where im going with that.Oh well CNN blows anyhow.

    • Anon says:

      I couldn’t disagree with this more, based on the Asian and non-Asian women I’ve known and grown up with. This makes no sense, I’m sorry.

    • Krystal says:

      A growing sentiment of jealousy and envy against them? I agree Asian women are beautiful, but I’m happy in my own skin and I don’t see any American woman trying to be Asian.

      I speak from life experiences, I’ve had very kind and beautiful Asian friends and they never have wanted to look more Western, and I speak from having American friends not wanting to be Asian either.

      Have a good day.

    • Hannah says:

      What do you mean by more “natural”? If they strive to be more natural Shouldn’t they stay the way they are? Or is natural considered to more westernized in their mind? The Desire to look more beautiful and natural and not more westernized as you claim, has to Originate from somewhere. Where do they originally get the idea of wanting surgery to look more natural? Western society.

      As much as I wish your claims were true, I can only partially agreed. Yes they might wish for a more natural beauty, but their desire of looking a certain way just doesn’t come from nowhere. I think you are being naive when making these claims and don’t see how society works and how western influence, and not just in Asia but all over the world, makes people desire and strive for a westernized lifestyle and looks.
      I’ve entertained the thought myself, being Asian living in Norway (now in the US) the pressure from society in general, particularly the massive influence from magazines movies and etc.) to look beautiful, many of these are Caucasian. Though you’ve seen a great diversity increase in commercials which is great! Nonetheless with such ads in Asian cultures it is hard to say they do not get influenced and that many of the surgeries originates in the desire of the more western look. To say otherwise is just plain ignorance in my mind

  10. We have a Chinese exchange student living with us, and she is 14. She got the surgery mentioned above a couple years ago, but not to look white, just to look “more beautiful.” Honestly, you can hardly tell that she has a “double eyelid” now. It just makes me sad, whatever the reason, that barely pubertal girls are getting cosmetic surgery for non-critical issues.

  11. Victoria says:

    THANK YOU! I have had exactly the same thoughts for years. I feel it’s downright arrogant and ignorant to assume that Asians have a natural tendency to want to be more westernized. It makes me want to roll my eyes every time I hear it. The reporter did what mostly other writers of westernized thinking do, they just rehash old ideas about this topic. I’ve come across this whole Asian’s do plastic surgery to become white thing dozens of times.
    I feel like it’s because it’s hard to understand a culture completely outside of your own without some genuine effort. And some really just don’t care enough to learn.
    Frankly, I’m just angry because I find it really insulting. I am Asian and I would never get surgery to change my ethnicity. I am proud of who I am, where I come from, and what I look like. There are millions more like me.
    The standard of beauty in Asian perspectives are actually vastly different from the western standards. Sure there are a few traits that are Asians do prefer like pale skin, big eyes, and etc. Both cultures look for harmony and balance between facial features, but each well structured face holds different meanings to both cultures.
    We’ve got to remember there’s a history, modern culture, a certain level of intelligence that goes behind imagery. Obviously being that Asian culture is very different from the Western one, it is logical to assume that the standard of beauty is not the same. It is influenced by Western culture and beauty but it is, again, not the same.

  12. Steff says:

    While I think your point has validity, it’s not nearly as black and white as you make it sound. For example, how do you explain epicanthoplasty, a unique Asian operation to remove the tiny fold in the eye corner nearest the nose? Epicanthal folds are found on nearly 100% of people of Asian descent but on almost none of European descent. Yet, epicanthoplasty is a wildly popular Asian facial plastic surgery in both the East and West, but especially in the East. And that’s only one example; there are many others.

    Plus, just ask any plastic surgeon who offers these surgeries (but do so in private or you’ll just get the party line). Patients may not tell anyone else, but far more than a few will confide to their surgeons that a very big reason they’re undergoing surgery is for westernization.

    So, while it’s really not so simple, it’s also far more complicated. To get a better idea of what I’m talking about, check out

    Rock on!

    • From what I understand, (and from what I’ve read in Asian magazines, online articles, etc), Asians who choose to undergo epicanthoplasty in addition to blepharoplasty do so because the fold will look more natural.

      I have actually had conversations with my parents about this CNN article (since posting this) and my father tells me that the Asian community was largely offended by the article and any idea that are similar to it.

    • Osmara says:

      A few Chinese women think it is so broad minded, so trdeny and fashionable, to spit on their own people, and go and date white males. But they are in fact white supremacists. They eschew Asian men but only for white men .I have had more than a few tell me this. How many do you see with say, black men, or Maori men, or Samoan men? None. It is all white male-asian female. Why? Its obvious. The white male is a loser who can’t find a mate from his own race, and the chinese part is a social climbing, white worshipping, desperado. They want to become part of the white mainstream.Roseannes marriage to Stephen fits the bill perfectly.

      • Johan from the netherlands says:

        Im a Nordic male myself,but Im gay..I see the same thing over here with asian women wich i found wierd.they are the only women that like light haired,light complexion males.white women consider blond men to be feminine(i do too).

        I thought most women prefered Tall Mediterenean caucasian men as the Italians,spanish,serbs etc but i never saw an asian woman with one.

        I came to the same conclusion that is it status all scientific studies show that women like swarthy males.even in many animals.

        it seems to me Latino women and Asian women have a colonist mindset.most women open their legs fast to conquerers and colonists.

        of course in the end it comes down to masculine attributtes,no matter what complexion, like height,strong chin,godly jaw,broad shoulders,V-shape body (think rugby players)etc wich women will biologicaly be driven to breed with no matter what race but outside of palces like denmark or sweden most white males look very ”Beta”with weak chins,weak jaws,”skinny fat ”bodies .so the attraction cant be biological but only social.

        (as asian women would-if it were a biological attraction- leave asian men and white men both for Mediterenean men,since the latter is superior to them in the biological sexual dimorphism)

    • Johan from the netherlands says:

      copy whites?that would be sad.Asian women are naturally just as beautifull if not more then white women and I know for a fact the beautifull Tibetan and viet village women ive seen had no access to makeeup.meanwhile here in europe ive neevr seen a woman be more then a 6 or a 7 without her makeup and hair bleach.

      asian women have slender bodies,and nice silky hair,european women have curly and frizzy.wavy hair not silky and straight.its just you would think they had good hair simplely because they straighten it to make it like asian women hair.

      european women also age very badly.and have horrible skin.of course makeup hides this so people get the illusion white women are the be end of all,and put them on pedestal.

      there are nice white women but only a minority,and media /fashion industry only depicts that minority(supermodels Caroline winberg and marriane schroder are examples of this type,known as the ”Tronder ”type)

      Tibet women ive seen had superior bone structure to most white women in my country.high cheekbones,proportionate noses,long nice hair without any alterations and products in it.

      many Nordic women look like men.they have broad shoulders,too tall,big boned,muscular frames,and Huge manly Jawlines and Manly dolph lundgren chins.

      who has the superior genes for feminine?

      this is the problem with evolution.the same mechanism/racial traits that makes black men or nordic men manly ,make their women unfeminine .

      the same mechanism that makes asian women so feminine and delicate,make the men too feminine and delicate
      as for the eye shape?
      as if Arabs,negros,native american,latinos,south asians do not have round or almondish eyes?
      and what is ”white”?are”whites”the only people with light eyes,round eyes,pointed noses?
      what about Afghans,Tajik,Iranians,israelis(who are Asians) etc? many of them have a great number of blondes among them and redheads(almost same rate as white people in europe) ,but also dark hair and swarthy skin too(just like most south and south eastern europeans,ukranians etc!).

      and not all ”whites”have round or almond eyes either,look at Finnish peoples like finns,udmurts,Estonians etc the udmurts are a great example,they are the most redhaired people in the world,but also have asianish eyes.finns are more blond then other scandinavians(who usually have a ”dirty blond”type of hair and dye their hair to the light blond colour finns naturally havewell into adulthood)but have asian Buttoned noses and slanted eyes(!)

      as for skin lightening:most white people -and I use white meaning western european-are not france,southern germany,bavaria,Wales people are much more ”swarthy”then most Asians.and have brown eyes.

      what that shows is people are diverse,whites have pale,light haired people among them,but also most of them are swarthy.I think ive met more afghan /Tajik redheads then Dutch ones.

      many asians look like whites(israeli,lebanese,afghan,iran people),and many whites look like asians(finnish peoples,many russians)

      I hope asian women be proud of asian look,because believe me nordic woman is not so beautifull or womanlike without her Coesmetic alterations!

      and before i get any cliche comments on how im a white nerd who cant get a white girl,no I am Gay man and im a Hair dresser so i know alot about aesthetics in females,and i know alot about the nrodic women vs the asian women.

      just search any white model without her makeup and youll see asian women are superior to nordic women in aesthetics.on average.

  13. Mary says:

    I know this is a somewhat old thread, but will you answer an opinion question for me?

    What is your opinion of the so-called westernization of East Asian cultures as a whole? Such as, what do you think about people’s aggravated view about Asians learning English in schools or choosing convenient fast food instead of traditional meals? And what is your opinon of the “modern” music in these cultures? Many say it mimicks late 80s and early 90s music from America, but others think that music itself simply follows a pattern and a trend in music can be set simply by one person with a different taste.
    I know it seems weird to ask this, but I’m doing a project on the Westernization of East Asian cultures and I found this very intriguing.

  14. Thu says:

    Asians learn english in schools… ask your ancesters what they have done in Asia then you will know why

    Choosing convenient meals instead of traditional meals…we eat our traditinal food everyday 3 times each but sometimes we want to try new thing as most westerners do when they come to “expensive” thai restaurant.

    What’s the problem with asian who like fair skin while most westerners prefer tanned skin and the process of becoming tan is far more dangerous than becoming lighter. What make westerners risk their health to become tan, severely self-hatred?

    • Anon says:

      The process of bleaching skin is extremely dangerous. Why on earth you think it’s safer than tanning is beyond me. Both are bad, but bleaching products are much more severe and damage the skin very quickly.

  15. Drew says:

    Hi there,

    I’d like you to know how absurdly naive and uninformed you revealed yourself to be in your post on Asian women having eyelid surgery. I’m quite certain that you are unconsciously vying to protect your own sense of self-identity and self-worth, which would make your stance (again, one that you’ve unconsciously developed) essentially a thinly veiled form of a defense mechanism. That’s just not good enough for me and anyone else who cares deeply about this issue.

    I’m not sure if you’ve ever lived in an Asian country, but I doubt it. In fact, I’m 100% sure of it, because your ignorance bespeaks this fact.

    I’m a white male, and I lived in Seoul Korea for one year teaching English. I also traveled in Japan and Thailand for some time. Have you any idea how many times I was utterly aghast at the OVERWHELMING influence that American culture has on the Korean society, and especially Korean youth? Surely you do not.

    I discussed exactly this issue in class with my Korean students, in private tutoring sessions with women from twenty to middle age, and with Korean female friends. The answer that came time and again (not from all, but from many – especially the young and easily misled) was unequivocal: it is better to look white, or to put it another way, the closer you look to being white, the more beautiful you are. Obviously this is complete horse shit, but that’s the message that I got from these women, time and time again. I couldn’t understand it at first. I really couldn’t.

    And I’m sure that you have trouble believing that women living in overseas countries could think such self dis-empowering thoughts, but it is the cold reality of the world outside North America and Western Europe, where thankfully women have made enormous gains in the last 100 years. Elsewhere in the world the yoke of oppression in its many guises still holds sway over countless woman’s lives. Westernization of Asian women is just another regrettable incarnation of this form of oppression and dis-empowerment.

    I had female bosses of mine (school principals) literally tell me that “Asian women are lower in terms of beauty, and white women are up here” (using hand gestures to signify her perceived Asian beauty inferiority). I had students whose minds were being warped report to me on how they want eyelid surgery so they can be more beautiful like the white Hollywood stars they see on TV, in magazine, in films, etc. Not a few young women, MANY, MANY young women. This was a fascination of mine, and it eventually become a bit of a personal mission to tell these women not to buy into this poisonous cultural indoctrination.

    You must understand something. Western influence is omnipresent in Korea, Thailand, China and to a lesser degree, Japan in addition to many other Asian nations. Everywhere you go there are looming, massive billboards with white women and white faces. These images shape the perceptions of old and young alike, and it is clearly evident in multiple societal values and pursuits – one being the eyelid surgery phenomenon. Everything Western in seen as superior by a large subset of the Korean culture, and sadly this permeates the minds of the young. I’m telling you this passionately because it dismayed and enraged me while I lived there.

    What equally enrages me is that someone like you with a listening audience can glibly whitewash this toxic reality by acknowledging none of the entrenched and destructive forces that currently shape untold millions of Asian women. Your perspective is simplistic and reductive, and the worst of it is that you’re trying to speak to the solution of an ugly problem without even knowing basic things about the roots, origins and realities of it. Anyone knowing and caring about these types of trends should not be misled by ignorance – unless of course they want to remain ignorant themselves. If that represents you and your readers, then what I’m writing doesn’t matter, but I doubt that’s the case because you do seem sincere.

    Understand that to speak English is a status symbol in Korea. The better you speak, the more powerful you are in socio-economic terms. This Western centric illusion of superiority stretches into how you dress, what you eat, and especially how you look. Again, this general trend is apparent in China and Japan to a lesser (but still very prevalent) extent. Many countries in Asia are far worse than Korea and Thailand when it comes to the Western centric illusion of superiority. I could go on at length about it (because as a teacher I cared, and continue to care about the forces shaping young minds), but I won’t. I just hope you can glean the value from what I’ve already said and take it upon yourself to develop a more informed perspective, especially before you go disseminating it on the internet for other people to be falsely influenced by.

    If you can’t understand these intangible, more ineffable realities and the effects that these dominant (albeit sad and unfortunate) cultural mores have on young, impressionable minds, that is your problem alone. But don’t sit on your soapbox and act like you have the answers in black and white, highly simplistic and obviously uniformed terms. In other words, don’t bloviate loudly on things that you ultimately (and very clearly to anyone who has direct life experience) know nothing about. That’s the highest form of ignorance and close-mindedness, and I know you have it in you to be wiser and more thoughtful than that.

    Wishing you happiness and well-being.
    Open roads,

    • Cha says:

      Stop acting like you know any shit about Asian. I bet you just another dumb foreigner who trying to act like badass, the reason there are white women show in asia because the product is from the west. PS speaking English has nothing to do with status in china. About all you people who acting like ninja, watching anime?? Can I said that that you guy got Asianized too? Please at least learn about Asian culture first before you open your dirty mouth, and why do white ppl getting lip injunction and tanning?? Can I said that they want to look black?v

      • jj says:

        Bravo, Cha. Unfortunately, Drew doesn’t realize that spending time in Asia for a whopping couple of years as a foreigner/ tourist/creepy-white-guy-with-an-O-fetish does not make him an expert on Asian culture. His condescending turd-words actually have the opposite effect of making him sound like a patronizing I-know-better-than-you racist.

    • Kid says:

      First of all, welcome to this place we call the “Internet”, my dear friend. I can deduce from your sophisticated diction and naive expectations on this blog that you are quite new to this place. You may notice here that people are generally allowed to post whatever the heck they want to, and it doesn’t have to be logical, informative, or even grammatically correct, for that matter. This is a blog made by a non-professional blogger, and she is merely stating her opinion. Similarly, you are stating yours. That is all fine and dandy until you continuously call the OP “close-minded”, “naive”, “ill-informed”, etc. In the Internet world, we welcome opinion, but not derogatory insults. You are free to debate, but you are not free to call others narrow-minded among other belittling statements merely because you disagree with what they have to say. If life worked that way, my high school debates would be more like a Jerry Springer show. So feel free to disagree, but please do respect the OP in doing so.

      I would also like to point out that as a teenage Asian female, I have never once wanted to look white. My Asian friends have never said or done anything to suggest they may be thinking this way, either, so I have to question the credibility of your claims. Maybe it’s different because I live in America, but I don’t recall seeing this phenomenon even when visiting relatives back in China. Perhaps the situation is different in Korea. Perhaps you just happened to stumble across a large group of Asian girls with self esteem issues. Certainly, there are Asian girls out there who would pay millions to be Caucasian, just as there are Caucasians out there who would give anything to be Asian. But please do not assume that the majority of Asian girls strive to look as “white” as possible. I for one find the notion quite ridiculous, and when I pointed the idea out to my sister, she couldn’t stop laughing. We quite enjoy our Asian looks, and we wouldn’t trade them for all the Caucasian facial features in the world, thank you very much. I am an Asian girl and proud of it, and that is all I have to say.

      • Krystal says:

        I completely agree with your response Kid (I’m responding to the name you’ve chosen on your post) I have very kind and beautiful Asian friends here in America and none of them have mentioned wanting to look more Caucasian. I personally think Caucasian women/men gloating how Asian women would do anything to look more Caucasian is offensive since I love my friends dearly and I know that they are happy in their own skin.

        Have a good day.

    • Johan from the netherlands says:

      Glad to see another european who reconizes that Asian women are superior to the western beauty concept wich only 1 % of western women have(Tronder type nordids in scandinavia).the rest of white women straighten their frizzy hair,use make-up,bleahc their hair blond.Id say antural blojnd hair si more rare to find then natural redhair outside of finland

      (im not talking dirty blond hair,im talking real blond hair)

      asian women should NOT mimic white females.

  16. Shane says:

    Hm. I lived in Korea for 3.5 years and my wife is Korean, so I feel pretty well informed to participate in this conversation. I see your point, Drew, that Korea is obsessed with Western media, and that this clearly has an influence on their ideas of beauty, and to completely deny this is naive. But I also think you’re overlooking the validity of the original post. I see nothing in the original post that strikes me as naive: she recognizes that Westernization has had an influence. You didn’t address her point that many elements of the Korean beauty ideal have been present long before Western influence: lighter skin, big eyes, etc. These are universals of human attractiveness that are associated with youth, fertility, and wealth. Yes, some are new: wanting large breasts is a recent acquisition, which is likely influenced by Western media.

    You’re both right. Your emphases are different. Why the hostility?

    Anyway, it’s obviously an overdetermined phenomenon. My own personal angle, whenever the issue is discussed: I think it’s largely a status issue. A tan in Korea makes you look like a poor laborer. A tan in the U.S. makes it look like you vacation in Fuji. And there is an association in Korea with white=rich, so there is probably some unconscious (and sometimes conscious, as in the anecdotes you mentioned) influence.

    • Drew says:

      Great points Shane! Thanks for contributing, you broadened my perspective with some of your thoughts, and I certainly do agree with what you’ve stated.

      Many thanks!

    • SasakiKai says:

      Study East Asian history and you will realize that large eyes were not a part of the package. A small, slightly pointed nose and more delicate features most definitely, but not necessarily large eyes. Look at the empresses and princesses of Korea of the past and Japanese paintings of the past. and study the history. Same in China. large eyes was not part of the package nor was a very pointed, protuberant nose.

  17. DarcieRae says:

    I really appreciate this article. I’m definitely Caucasian, and I believe that different countries have different perceptions of what beauty is- but share a lot of the same ideas. For example, larger eyes. Most countries, as far as I know, consider large eyes beautiful. Does that mean that every person in Asia that get’s eye lid surgery is trying to look Caucasian? Of course not! I mean, I have to admit that I’m jealous of people who have straight, dark hair- and I have colored mine to match on occasion. But that doesn’t mean I’m trying to look Asian. It just means I like dark, straight hair. Just like how some people who have straight, dark hair want light colored, curly hair. Different people have different perceptions of what’s considered beautiful to them. The same goes with eyes. I think that this girl just wants her eyes to look bigger, not Caucasian.

  18. Susan Tan says:

    Why some people found it amazing that there are number of Asians had cosmetic surgery than Caucasian people had surgery? Is this a perfect example of reverse racism? “White people” can freely visit cosmetic clinics and Asians are not? Why are surprise that Asians had also the desire to change some of their features like any other person?

  19. me says:

    except that song hye gyo and lee hyo ri are completely natural.

  20. Xtina says:

    I know I’d love to get double eye lid surgery BECAUSE my hooded eyelids make me look really tired and my eyelashes curve inwards and poke at my eyeballs. Some people get it to just feel comfortable in their own skin.
    AND in korea, for interviews, the employers tend to judge people by their appearance (generally) – for instance if you look pudgy, they think that you can’t look after your health, hence can’t look after the company, something like that. REally unfortunate.

  21. Arthur says:

    Great post! This is exactly how I feel about this issue. I personally actually get insulted when Westerners claim that when Asian people get this procedure to appear more “White”, suggesting that they lack confidence in their own culture. This presupposes that Asians are victims of some sort of Western hegemonic culture, and I don’t think it is one bit true. Usually, people who insist on this have little comprehension of Asian culture. It’s sort of like saying, hey, I noticed that a lot of Caucasians are obsessed with getting a tan…I wonder if that means they lack self esteem and want to be black!

    • SasakiKai says:

      Asians are victims of western hegemonic culture. What clothing are you wearing? Most likely western clothing.

      Unless you wear a kimono/hakama and other traditional japanese clothing or hanbok or hanfu, then you have already been colonized.

      Go read the history of how Admiral Perry bullied Japan and forced it to westernize, essentially. Read about the Opium Wars and how America, Britain, and the rest of the European countries forced drugs (opium) into China and destroyed the society and infrastructure, then invaded and carved up lands and stole resources as well as vast amounts of wealth for almost 100 years and destroyed pretty much all East Asian cultures. Japan imperialized and adopted western imperialist thought after the Meiji Era and styled themselves as the “whites of Asia”. Learn your history or remain ignorant.

      Caucasians getting a tan has to do with beach culture as well as mixed African influence, but white privilege and white status because of western imperialism still means being white is “best:” there fore they will not want to look like other races as much as other races seek to look “more white.”

  22. John says:

    Some great posts here but one that is really annoying is constantly seeing people dig at white people who tan and (said in retaliation) does that mean they want to be black?

    First of all I’m posting this just so maybe anyone reading this wont keep saying this.
    Fact is sure there may be some white people who would like to be black as in have brown skin dark or light but if a white person wanted to imitate a black person unfortunately they do it by copying negative stereotypes (and “positive” but damaging) rather than mimicking their skin tone. Any smart White person knows the benefit of being white.. any ethnic person does too. Thanks to generations of manipulation and control as long as you look clean and sharp and you are white you can be trusted and expected to me a good character until proved otherwise.
    For some other races they have to prove they they are a good character!! it’s unfair and unjust but that’s how it is. What I mean is no white person would give him the priveledge that is white skin, to be presumed rich, educated and civil. When it comes down to it fact is many asians and other races know this as much as it hurts. East and South Asians both have a tendency to adore and glorify white skin, you bleach your skin, you get surgery to look more white don’t lie we all know.

    White people tan to look like they are wealthy or give off that image. If you are white and tanned it can imply you don’t work a 9-5 it means you go to the beach a lot, travel or have the time to fake tan while others wouldn’t as they are too busy being peons it’s a status symbol. White people do get surgery but it is things that are expected within that race Generally and thanks to their global power have made it so should We (white people) wish to change or upgrade ourselves it’s ok because we made it ok to. We made it so anyone not white has to question themselves . Oh the to be on top.

  23. Mo says:

    I agree wholeheartedly. It’s extremely depressing. I know many white girls who mimic asians by dying their hair black, wearing cat eyeliner and even teaching themselves korean and japanese. I have never EVER hated them for this. Or told them that they are going against the things that make them white. Although surgery isn’t involved because that is simply something that an average american would do (I’m in college too, i’m not sure many people here can get surgery when they have so much other stuff to pay for xD) I am Half white and Filipino, but I have always loved korean eyebrows…so I grew mine out and I do think it looks much more beautiful that when they were really severe and arched. I think many women are all very aware of beauty amongst all women. I mean, women are very into the idea of beauty anyway. A lot of races have the same ideas about what is beautiful. Such as the eyes. Or the lips. I’d like to have the option of dying my hair blonde, or changing anything else without being accused of erasing what makes me half white/half filipino. I mean, think about it! Being half white and half-filipino, what exactly does that confine me to? What confines Koreans? I think they are a very diverse looking race like any other. That CNN video made me upset because white people treat asians like a minority and even say that all asians look the same. I’m sure if they were more exposed and didn’t generalize billions of people they would feel differently.

    • Anon says:

      Cat eyeliner has been around for a very long time and has nothing to do with Asian eyes. Europeans and Egyptians before them were doing it before they ever saw an Asian. And most Europeans naturally have dark brown hair. Dark hair is as White as White gets, blonde Europeans are very rare around the world. If anything, the number of White people dyeing their hair lighter is significantly higher. Blonde haired White women have been getting more attention from their men (and other non-White men) for a very long time. Black hair is boring to most White people.

      • Ronald Summers says:

        go to England, Scotland, Denmark, Sweeden, Finland, Norway, Netherlands or Germany. Plenty of Natural blondes. Plenty of red hair also.

        • Johan from the netherlands says:

          actually we have mousy blond.or dark blond.

          real blond hair is more rare then red.and we are not the only to monopolize on blodn hair and light eyes,many Israelis,lebanese,afghans,Iranains are blond hair and light eyed.

          in fact most north euros are brunette.

          as for red hair,allepo in syria…has the most redhaired people per percentage.i think only the udmurt people in russia(who are EURASIAN)have more redhair percentage wise in the entire world.

          plenty of afghans too have redhair.

          none of these are whites.

  24. Anon says:

    To be honest with you, based on those photos of the two women, and the others I’ve seen… if I saw them on the street, I would easily mistake them for White Hispanic/southern European people. Same goes for the east Asian beauty queens. And I’ve spent years in east Asia. These women look nothing like the normal east Asian women and that’s the truth. It’s one thing for celebrities and beauty queens to look better than their other people. It’s a whole other story when they look like a different race. Contrast that with Angelina Jolie, for example, who obviously doesn’t resemble many White women… but still looks unmistakably White.

  25. Jenny says:

    Here sister!

    It’s just stupid ignorance that makes news media in the USA what it is… and that’s not really saying much since it’s usually always ignorant anyways to begin with… cougH* FOX news..***

    Tyra banks did the same shit on her TV show… she brought on a really beautiful asian woman on the show to do a expose on cosmentic surgery and instead of uplifting her.. she belittled and berated her on the show for trying to look white when the girl was clearly trying to say everything that you just said but the Bitch tyra banks wouldn’t let her get a word in edgewise.

  26. Emily says:

    I love your article, but it is true that asians are trying to look more westenized. Ive lived in Japan, a society where people with big eyes and pointy nose are being praised, and most people think and idolize the same thing and act the same way. During my high school years, girls with monolid or small eyes were creating double eyelid with glue product which was created especially for girls with monolid. Usually those girls with nonolid got prastic surgery after high school graduation or during college years. I was born with double eyelid by nature but I was still doing it because I wanted to look more like a caucasian. While I grew up, people thought I was mixed with caucasioan because I somehow looked Half. And, believe it or not, when people say you look Half, it’s a compliment. If people say, “You look Japanese”, it’s not a compliment. Now I think about it, it is a horrible culture. People like Jessica Michibata are praised in Japan. For young girls in East Asia are kind of forced with one idea of beauty by magazines and TV while growing up. Look at the magazine or models in Asia, they are either “HALF” -mixed blood with caucasians- or asians with wavy(curled or permed) long dyed brown hair with ultra white pale skin, double lid eyes and long eyelashes and big lips created by lipgloss. I get it that people don’t want to admit that asians are trying to look westernized, but they are. This was not happening 60 years ago before Americans came to Japan. Beautiful asian wome actually looked asians. They were naturally beautiful with what they were born with, black hair, small nose and eyes. After the war, as society got westernized, the beauty standard has been westernized as well. Asians in America seem that they accept the way they look and are confident in asian ethnicity. When I used to live in USA, I never felt so free, beautiful and confident because my negative features I struggled so much and being teased while growing up in Japan such as small round “not pointy” nose or very black straight “Plain” black hair were not viewed as negative factors. People in USA celebrate differences in people’s features while asians in Asia tend to point at differences and set one beauty standard.

  27. k says:

    Hmmm I don’t personally think asians want to be white anymore then whites want to be asian but I do think the surgery craze, especially in Korea, is about looking EUROASIAN. I think Koreans want to look more between white and asian, a blend. Natural Korean features are not high pointed noses, small v shaped faces, and big double eyelid creases (altho some koreans naturally have well defined creases, the majority do not). I think Koreans want to minimize their distinctive race features to appear less Korean and more Korean/white. They DO idolize western beauty standards and to say they don’t is naive because if you go to Korea you will see a disproportionate amount of ads using white models. On all the major dept. Stores they would hang huge pictures of models and I would say 80% of those models are white, european women. You don’t see europe and america doing that with asian models. I even saw some plastic surgery ads using white models. I think there are certain features koreans like about their faces and they certainly want to remain asian looking…just less of it and more of a mix to attaib euroasian traits.

  28. Ronald Summers says:

    getting surgury: eye lid, nose job, jaw line, whitening skin with chemicals, coloured contact lenses, dying hair red and light brown and blonde is not natural. Some white women get a tan from the sun, but we know this is harmful to our skin type so it is not encouraged. Asian women look much better naturally as opposed to trying to completely change their appearance always to make them more western looking never more African!

  29. Ronald Summers says:

    If your getting surgury, using chemicals, contact lenses not of your natural colour, you have self esteem issues. If it is to try and attract a western guy, most western guys prefer natural looking asian women, black hair asian eyes darker skin etc exotic looks. That said, the majority of western men prefer western women anyways. Be yourselves and go after your own men. Asians have plenty to take pride in without resorting to surgury, it’s a little disturbing.

    • Sei says:

      It’s literally none of your business though??? But I see where you’re coming from. But those who undergo changes are just going through their own path and maybe some just want to look good for themselves, not for other people.

      Also it’s spelt as surgery.

  30. Aya says:

    I encounter this every time I wear my naturally curly hair straight.
    I’m a hugee mix of races, but my main one being Jamaican (half). I can tell you, this drives me insane as well. It makes me ashamed to be American because people are always assuming other cultures want to look like an American.
    It’s just the American way of living…. I’m secretly glad I don’t look American hah.
    I mean, ever since the colonization of America by the Brits, Americans have *ALWAYS* done this… Feeling entitled to assume everybody wants to be like us.
    Ugh, I feel your pain.

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