Making over 'The Big Reveal': Neoliberal Multiculturalism and the Globalizing of the South Korean ‘Look’

When and Where

Friday, April 08, 2022 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm


S. Heijin Lee


Searching the words, "South Korean Plastic Surgery" will lead to a plethora of vlogs with titles like "My Plastic Surgery Experience in Korea." Sponsored by plastic surgery clinics or medical tourism agencies, such vlogs chronicle the YouTuber's journey to South Korea, their multiple surgeries, the pain of recovery and surgery's results. Focusing on US-born BIPOC YouTubers, I show how these vlogs are remaking the Makeover genre. I argue that these videos are legible through globally shared neoliberal multicultural sensibilities and as such, enact the South Korean "look," made popular by K-pop idols, as global by literally showcasing non-Korean bodies transformed as such.

S. Heijin Lee is Assistant Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University whose research explores the imperial routes of culture and media. In addition to her forthcoming book, The Geopolitics of Beauty, which maps the convergence of pop culture and plastic surgery coming from South Korea, Lee is co-editor of Fashion and Beauty in the Time of Asia (NYU Press, 2019) and Pop Empires: Transnational and Diasporic Flows of India and Korea (University of Hawai'i Press, 2019). Lee has been featured on National Public Radio's Code Switch, Korea Society's "K-Pop 101" series, and at KCON discussing beauty, pop and power.


East Asian Studies Department, Cheng Yu Tung East Asian Library, Korean Office for Research and Education at York University