The above video clip and this article: My Korean Body resonate so deeply for me as I have always been unsure of my body. The American culture presses the beauty and normalcy of being white and the Korean culture relies on surgical intervention to alter and conform physical differences.
As a transracial adoptee, where do I fit in?
Growing up, I always saw a white person in the mirror. I wanted blonde hair and blue eyes. I always resented the fact that people would constantly suggest I dress up as Mulan, Pocohontas or Jasmine for Halloween. For once, I just wanted to look like Cinderella. I craved to look like everyone else.
It wasn't until my junior year in high school, my friend Emma opened my eyes to the other side. Emma was a foreign exchange student from Seoul, South Korea. We connected instantly. Everything about her was intriguing. I loved to listen to her accent and learn about my birth country. It was eye opening to me that she was born and raised in the same city that I was born and adopted from. When Emma moved to the US to study abroad, her host family lived just blocks away from a McDonald's. Emma couldn't get enough of those greasy and thigh enhancing french fries... burgers dripping in calories and bottomless sodas. She was a frequent McD's customer. After a few months into her stay, she told me that she had gained a lot of weight here in the States. In my eyes, she was very thin and had a typical Asian body. What most surprised me was that when she would Skype with her parents, her mother would tell her that she was fat and looked like a pig. Emma didn't seem to express any emotion of pain or hurt feelings when she told me this. She just said in a very matter of fact way, that she was indeed fat. On another occasion, she expressed her interest in a very common procedure in Korea, called the Epicanthic Fold. In this procedure, the epicanthi is removed and the eyes appear more rounded and Western looking. This is just one of many cosmetic surgeries performed with the same goal in mind. To look like those of the West. Other popular enhancements are augmentation rhinoplasty (nose job), double eyelid surgery (to create an upper eyelid crease) and cheek, jaw and calf reduction.
This CNN article: Plastic Surgery boom as Asians seek 'western' look is particularly disturbing. Why are so many Koreans obsessed with looking less Asian? This beautiful 12 year olds mother says, "I'm having her do it," says Jang, "because I think it'll help her. This is a society where you have to be pretty to get ahead. She's my only daughter."
"Money can't buy you happiness, but it can pay for the plastic surgery." - Joan Rivers
As an adult Korean adoptee, I feel very strongly that i have faced even more insecurities and anxieties about my body than the average American woman. As I have explored deeper into the Korean culture, I have found that the pressures of being "beautiful" are very similar to the pressures here in the US. It has taken me many years of soul searching and acceptance of my identity as an intercountry adoptee to look in the mirror and not just say, but actually see a beautiful Asian woman. In the mirror, I see freckles, obvious chicken pox scars, big luscious lips, a slight crease in my right eyelid and puffy round cheeks. These once imperfections are now a literal reflection of who I am and how far I have come. Don't get me wrong, I am nowhere near against cosmetic surgery as I have toyed with the idea of a few nips and tucks after I am finished having children. But as for my Asian features? I would never give up. Until finding my birth family last year, these almond eyes and pressed nose were the only connection I had to my Asian heritage. They are a part of who I am. I am a Korean adoptee.