The division between North Korea and South Korea is staggering. Every year, many North Koreans flee to the south, looking for a better life for themselves and families. However, this dream isn’t always obtainable for some, since many North Koreans carry physical and emotional scars that prohibits success in a new, foreign society. A team of plastic surgeons have banded together to try and improve that imbalance by offering free plastic surgery procedures to North Korean defectors.

Beauty Obsession

It isn’t a secret that South Korean culture puts beauty and physical appearance at a high standard. This obsession can be seen especially in the capital city, Seoul, where there are hundreds of clinics to suggest procedures to potential plastic surgery patients. Additionally, subway stations are filled with before and after cosmetic photos of successful procedures.

This focus on appealing physical appearance can make it difficult for North Koreans looking for work. Many fleeing citizens coming into South Korea have visible scars that make them automatically undesirable employees. Also, on average, these North Koreans only make 66 percent of what South Koreans make, since they are perceived as unskilled and unstable.

Adjusting to New Culture

To help this suffering population of North Koreans integrating into a new society, a volunteer group from the Korean Association of Plastic Surgeons decided to help defectors by getting rid of their scars. This group has treated nasal malformations, burn scars, and even remove tattoos.  Although this program may be perceived as assistance to defectors, the surgeons involved have other motives as well.

South Korea’s plastic surgery obsession is beginning to reach a tipping point, where there is an unrealistic standard for beauty. Actually, many surgeons even feel that this has gotten so extreme, where a negative stigma has developed in view of cosmetic surgery. By offering these free procedures, surgeons can help rebuild their status in the public eyes.

Whatever the motivations are, this program has helped many people feel more welcome in a foreign country and surgeons’ physically erase their painful pasts.