London Korean Links

Covering things Korean in London and beyond since 2006

Gangnam Style? Plastic Surgery and Biopolitics in South Korea

A new addition to the list of SOAS seminars this term:

Gangnam Style?: Plastic Surgery and Biopolitics in South Korea

Dr So Yeon Leem (Sociology, LSE)
Date: 28 February 2014 5:15 – 7:00 PM
Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room G50


South Korea is a plastic surgery nation, where the biopolitics of plastic surgery has been more powerful than any other parts of the world. The locus of plastic surgery in South Korea is the district called “Gangnam,” which is located in the southern area of South Korea’s capital, Seoul. Gangnam is where the magical aesthetic enhancement of Korean women as well as the miraculous economic development of modern South Korea have taken place since the late 20th century. Koreans’ love for plastic surgery attracted international attention long before Korean pop singer Psy’s song “Gangnam Style” was a huge hit around the world in 2012. This study thus focuses on how the biopolitics of plastic surgery works in South Korea but in different ways from what most of previous studies have done. Intensive and long-term participant observations at a plastic surgery clinic at Gangnam were carried out for this study from October 2008 to September 2011. Specifically, preoperative consultation processes between a plastic surgeon and lay patients, in which digital photographs are extensively mobilized, are drawn here to show what kind of ‘science’ works at the heart of a plastic surgery nation. By looking at what actually happens inside a plastic surgery clinic, this study attempts to materialize how plastic surgery has been proliferated in South Korea.

Speaker’s Biography

Dr. So Yeon Leem earned her doctoral degree in science and technology studies (STS) from Seoul National University (SNU), South Korea, in 2012. Her dissertation, “A Network of Things, Bodies, and Knowledges in Plastic Surgery Practices,” was based on the intensive ethnographic fieldwork at a plastic surgery clinic for thirty five months, including her own experience of plastic surgery. She also has published articles (in Korean) about feminist STS, ethnographic methodologies, and public understanding of science. She previously taught at a number of universities in South Korea, worked for Science Culture Research Center, the Institute for Basic Science at SNU, and now joined the Department of Sociology at London School of Economics as a visiting research associate in January 2014. During her stay at LSE, she will be preparing manuscripts for publication based on her auto/ethnographic study of plastic surgery in South Korea.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.