This essay examines how South Korea's conspicuous cosmetic-surgery culture is represented and critiqued in visual works by young Korean artists. In particular, I pay attention to the recent works by Mind C (Kang Min Gu), Kim Tae Yeon, and Ji Yeo (Yeo Ji Hyeon), widely circulated online and attracting much viewership, but which have not received much in the way of critical evaluation or in-depth examination. Based on a close analysis of the images, I argue that they raise some important and complex issues with respect to cosmetic surgery and beauty culture that have previously been under-discussed in popular culture, such as gender stereotype, side effects, and the pain and desire involved in extreme makeovers, and the changing aesthetics and ethics of contemporary South Korea. For comparison, I will first review pop-culture representations of cosmetic surgery before discussing the artworks under consideration. My analysis of the artworks will highlight the role of artists as cultural critics, but it will also suggest that the artworks are products of the culture, and partake in the production of the growing discourse on South Korea's expanding cosmetic surgery culture and industry. Both scholarly and journalistic writings on South Korea's cosmetic surgery practice and culture will be used in this analysis.
cosmetic surgery in contemporary art; cosmetic surgery; Korean art; Internet culture; beauty culture; Mind C; Kim Tae Yeon; Ji Yeo; gender; representation