Glorification or real need? Plastic surgery show turns Korean man into "flower boy"

Suffering from low self-confidence due to his looks and saggy "manboobs" caused by his obesity and subsequent weight loss, South Korean Park Jin Pei turned to plastic surgery reality show "Let Me In" for help.

Hong Kong's Apple Daily reported that 21-year-old Park's hatred for his appearance caused him to hole himself up at home and refuse to see strangers.

Weighing 134kg originally, he had strived hard to lose weight, but had not expected that the rapid weight loss would come with a price - saggy breasts that resembled those of an old woman.

The unexpected result caused him to withdraw into himself to a greater degree and made his parents extremely worried. Desperate to give their son happiness, they sought the help of a popular Korean variety show which specialises in transforming people with the help of plastic surgery.

The show brought in specialist physicians to transform him physically, but also convinced Park to undergo psychological help. Through the help of a psychologist, it was discovered that Park had mental trauma left over from the years of bullying he suffered in school.

The plastic surgeons decided to remove his saggy "breasts" to return his chest to the way it looked before and also alter the proportion of his face.

Park also kept up his weight loss goal throughout the programme and managed to drop down to 68kg.

His resulting appearance was aired on Korean television and shocked his family and viewers alike.

He had fat grafting done to his forehead, surgery to the eyes, nose, chest and a total of seven main parts of his body. According to the programme, it cost an estimated 51.2 million won (S$57,497).

However, his transformation and that of many others on the show has led some to claim that the show is encouraging Koreans to go for unnecessary plastic surgery while ignoring the dangers of extreme procedures. 

Is reality TV promoting unhealthy plastic surgery craze?

Is reality TV promoting unhealthy plastic surgery craze?

"Let Me In" is a cosmetic surgery makeover reality TV show on cable channel StoryOn, which has returned for a third season.

According to the production crew, the before-and-after images of the contestants have kept viewers tuned in and attracted the most applicants since its launch in 2011. The number of applicants increased from 300 for the first season to 2,000 for the second, and to 4,300 for the third.

The show "aims to offer physical, psychological and social help to those who are suffering because of their appearances" by a panel of specialists that range from plastic surgeons, a dentist, a psychiatrist and stylists.

According to some viewer comments, the programme makes people believe that cosmetic surgery is somehow simple in the course of transformation, which features some risky procedures such as jawline surgery, which used to be limited to people with dental problems.

However, the jawline surgery that shaves a square jawline to create an oval face has become increasingly popular after some celebrities openly admitted to having it. And somewhat simpler surgeries, such as double-eyelid and nose jobs, have become so common that teenage girls drop by plastic surgeons for procedures during school breaks.

The programme vowed that it will focus on making over one's life instead of just changing their looks, but opponents claim that it drives demand for cosmetic surgery in Korea by glorifying the dramatic transformation of contestants who undergo multiple surgeries.

Some point out the show downplays contestants' problems to a matter of looks, ignoring overall society or other factors.

"Some contestants experience family separation, poverty and violence, which are mostly from social structural problems, but the show somehow blames those problems on their looks," wrote culture critic Kim.