22 year-old Kim now says that while people always considered her attractive, it was a natural rather than manufactured beauty. In a country where everything from pop groups to history is carefully manufactured, people are likely to react angrily to the idea that something they were exposed to was effectively independently produced with none of the safety guarantees the backing of a major clinic provides.
It is this lack of backing that proved to be Kim's undoing. Even though she had regularly talked about the work which she had done, sometimes disappearing for days on end to cover 'bandage time', she had refused to name the clinic which had engineered her body, leading to a damaging rumor campaign among netizens that she was marketing an unbranded product from a minor clinic – possibly even from one outside Seoul.
As people dug into her background a major scandal then erupted when photos from Kim's past surfaced. In her yearbook photo – uploaded by one of her peers – Kim has a remarkably similar look, leaving no doubt that the beauty queen hadn't gone under the knife since her school days. While children as young as 13 are now getting plastic surgery, standards were tighter when Kim was a teenager - apparently ruling her out from even being an early pioneer.
In the face of the growing calls for her to be investigated, Kim came clean about her shocking secret, but her troubles may just be beginning. In addition to being forced to give back her title, some girls are already threatening legal action against Kim for devaluing the work they have had done on the grounds that it is unfair competition to have an unlicensed beauty applying for the same jobs.
Last year did see a minor backlash against plastic surgery when YG Entertainment, one of the top manufacturers of K-pop, said it was planning to launch a K-pop group with a twist – the members of the group would commit to not having any kind of plastic surgery, although many in the industry said they simply wouldn't be able to find five girls who were either plastic-free or willing to commit to a surgery-free future, and nothing more has been heard about the plan since.
Plastic surgery in Korea has a long tradition and numerous historical dramas portray people who have clearly had work done by the surgeons of the period, proving how Korean plastic surgery is the oldest in the world. But in recent years as the economy has struggled competition for better grades and jobs has increased leading to what has amounted to a plastic surgery arms race among men and especially women, and in addition to inventing the technique Korea now also has the most plastic surgery patients in the world. Because of this, plastic surgery is regarded by many as a tax on job-seeking if not a tax on life itself, and Kim may now find herself at the center of a test case in which it is established whether she can be convicted as a tax evader.
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