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April 28, 2020

How ‘My ID Is Gangnam Beauty’ Helped Me Think Differently About Cosmetic Surgery

Who says Korean dramas are just for fun?


Growing up, I had a prejudiced view of cosmetic surgery and the people who got it. Those views were influenced by media like magazines and TV, which portrayed it as a frivolous thing that vain people did. I looked to the types of procedures people got done — nose jobs, tummy tucks, facelifts — as justification for my opinions. Why was the nose that person was born with not good enough? Why not work out and eat better instead of getting liposuction?


Now that I’m older, a lot of things have contributed to my change in my perspective, leaving me of the opinion that people should be allowed to do whatever they want to their bodies within reason. It turns out that when you assess a thing from all sides without bias and form your opinions, they might not be the same as what you have been taught to believe.



cosmetic surgery



My ID Is Gangnam Beauty is a 2018 Korean drama about a young woman who literally begins her college life as a different person than she was in high school (at least physically). Kang Mi-Rae goes through life as a young person in high school, believing that she is too ugly to be loved. She leaps at the chance to reinvent herself and begin again in a place where no one knows her old face, undergoing plastic surgery the summer before she goes to university. Even her dad doesn’t recognize her, asking her for directions when he arrives at her campus for her matriculation ceremony.


Mi-Rae judges everyone by their looks, scoring people mentally according to their facial features, instead of assessing their personality and values. One of the girls she makes friends with is a pretty girl called Soo-Ah. Soo-Ah turns out to be kind of a see-you-next-Tuesday, hating the attention Mi-Rae gets and playing ridiculous head games to gain the male lead’s favor over Mi-Rae. She despises Mi-Rae even more once she finds out that her face isn’t “natural,” expressing her opinion that it is unfair for Mi-Rae to be liked better than her, the “natural beauty.” From those interactions, Mi-Rae learns that one’s looks don’t equal happiness. Even the so-called “natural beauties” deal with the upheavals of everyday life. Joy isn’t determined by a person’s facial features.





I really liked the approach the director took when shooting scenes about young, pre-surgery Mi-Rae. Her face was always obscured or turned away. The reason for this cinematographic choice was to convey that there isn’t a particular kind of face that viewers should think of as ugly. And also, to prevent people with similar looks from being bullied or thinking of themselves as less-than. For a drama concerned with depicting the journey towards defining real beauty, it would have been counterintuitive to “create a fixed definition of ugliness.”


One of the things that changed the way I thought about cosmetic surgery was getting tattooed. During one session, the tattoo artist who was working on me checked in with me about my pain and comfort levels, and when I told him it hurt but I could bear it, he said, “Oh, the things that we do to make our bodies look the way that we want them to.” His words have stuck with me until now, and I really do feel like every new bit of ink brings me one step closer to the ideal that I pursue. It’s a becoming of sorts.



cosmetic surgery



And I imagine it must feel that way for people who have cosmetic procedures done. It doesn’t have to mean that what we were before the transformation was bad or undesirable, just that we all carry an image of ourselves, and reaching that goal makes us feel better. It’s the same with exercising and dieting to achieve a certain body type.


It does make me sad that a lot of the surgery people got in the past — and probably still do now — isn’t necessarily inspired by a personal aesthetic but due to outside pressure. There are countless stories of women who get breast implants because their boyfriends/husbands think it’ll make them look better. But there’s also the other side of it, where women whose bodies have been changed by childbirth decide that they’d like to look a little more like they used to. Or cosplayers who invest in implants because it’ll make their performance more believable.


I think the societal attitude about cosmetic surgery has shifted a little bit in the last few years, with more people embracing the changes they choose to make to their own bodies. Beauty YouTuber Jackie Aina, for instance, has been very candid about her surgical procedure, offering her audience an insight into the thought process that fueled her decision, as well as a walkthrough of the procedure and her results. Singer Summer Walker has also spoken about the procedures she had done, in a casual tone that I think is healthy. She didn’t hate her body for looking the way it did but just thought she would look better with a bit of a derriere, and so she got one.





Once I got past the creepy sunbae and gossip-mongering classmates, I really enjoyed My ID Is Gangnam Beauty. It’s a great story for a highly competitive age where social media fuels FOMO, unfavorable comparisons, and a constant performance of different personas. My ID Is Gangnam Beauty says that it’s okay to want to change yourself as long as you do it for the right reasons, and as long as you love yourself no matter what stage of metamorphosis you might be at. After Kang Mi-Rae learned that important lesson, she didn’t decide that her transformation had been a bad idea, just that she needed to stop viewing people as a face rather than a whole person.


What’s your personal take on cosmetic surgery? And have you watched My ID Is Gangnam Beauty yet? Tell me what you thought of it.



Karachi discovered K-beauty in 2015 and fell wallet-first into the fray. When she’s not binge-watching a TV series or losing herself in a book, she’s creating wish lists of new stuff to try and reading posts by her favorite bloggers. Learning has been a lifelong hobby for her and she truly enjoys geeking out about the amazing things different ingredients can do for skin.



People should feel confident and if it means surgery to achieve it then do it. I do support that but you can get addicted to it and that’s when It can be dangerous. It’s really important you embrace and love yourself first

I totally agree; people should be confident in their own bodies, and if that means cosmetic surgery, then do it! That drama also helped remind me not to judge people by their looks alone, so I super appreciate the other lessons it taught as well!

I am pro and supporter of anything people want to do that will make them feel better, as long as they dont harm others, but Am I concerned when somebody too young (not yet developed) is doing breast surgery and similar? Yeah. I think 18 or early 20 you have no idea how your body is gonna look like, but post 25 girl the world is yours.

As a beauty writer, I've written gallery summations (descriptions about specific cosmetic procedures) for years, so I think I've always had a healthy attitude toward plastic surgery. Most of the people I was involved with (at a distance) made sound decisions about the outcomes they wanted to achieve. It did, however, sadden me when I saw a young person altering what already appeared to be a beautiful looking face. I enjoyed "My ID Is Gangnam Beauty" because of the evolution of the characters. The fact that the series addressed bulimia (by a beautiful "natural" woman) is something I think most... Read more

I love the show Botched and my view of plastic surgery went from one of judgement to one with a bit more understanding. I’m also a hairdresser by trade so I learned about people over the years. I’m glad the stigma is lifting, I really hope people can learn to love themselves regardless. Self love is essential. 🌺🤗


These days, it is more open society, so I think I am generous about plastic surgery.I think it's okay to get plastic surgery if there's anything I don't like about my face.But it's just that I'm a little scared, so I can'I heard that the probability of failure has also decreased a lot due to the development of plastic surgery technology.If you have enough money, you can think about it.

I have mixed feelings about plastic surgery! I am generally all for it, and have worked for a cosmetic surgeon in the past. It can be really rewarding to see someone receive a confidence boost, especially when they have lived with an abnormality. However, I also think it is so important that we love ourselves first and do not put our beauty standards above our physical health. It's always important to do lots of research! As the commenter below mentioned, breast implant illness is a real thing along with other potential complications, so definitely not something to take lightly!


Such a great article! I actually mentioned this show to my college students when we were discussing a short story that looks at the factors that affect the way we see plastic surgery and the reason people get it. What I appreciate about the drama is that it shows that natural beauty is a really dangerous concept---it's a way of holding people (especially women) to these arbitrary standards of beauty, and then punishing them for not meeting those standards "naturally." You are punished for being "ugly," but then you are punished for TRYING to meet those standards, because trying suggests... Read more

A lot of these surgeries have a second price- and that's the toll it can take on your health (both mentally and physically). Breast implant illness is a big one. I wonder what other kinds of problems people have after their surgeries. Seems like one surgery can just lead to the next...

Wow this changed my view on plastic surgery. I personally will use skincare and makeup to enhance my natural beauty.