Saturday, March 29, 2014

Let Me In - A korean Plastic Surgery Variety TV Show

Photos credit: ID Hospital, Korea, Business Insider, CJ Entertainment

This post entry took me longer than expected. I was literally flooded with tons of information online, trying to digest and summarize them in my own words. There are many mixed responses and comments all over the place. Some emotional and subjective and the others logical and objective. Eventually i decided not to take any side and write this post from my very own perspective. Please note that this will be a particularly long entry. I hope you all would enjoy reading.

Plastic Surgery

In the past decades, plastic surgery was only performed whenever it was necessary, normally involving people who are either born with facial deformities or are severely disfigured due to illness, accidents or domestic violence. Generally, the reason to perform the surgery was to correct or restore a person's facial forms and their functionality. However, different from cosmetic surgery which usually focus on enhancing one's appearance to achieve a youthful look, plastic surgery is a surgical specialty that includes many types of reconstructive surgeries, often involving higher risks and complications.

Plastic surgery, a business once kept under wraps, has evolved into a lucrative business today. It has now became such an unhealthy norm among the modern societies where people started to attribute personal life successes to a person's appearance. This is especially prevalent in South Korea, where plastic surgery is generally becoming very common and accepted by the mass korean population.

Korean obsession with beauty and plastic surgery has became so extreme to the extent that it is actually seen worthy and profitable to create a television variety show on the topic. This resulted in the production of "Let Me In", which has aired a total of 3 seasons so far.

Let Me In 

Let Me In is a South Korea plastic surgery and makeover program aired on a  CJ Entertainment cable network named "Story On". Me In literally means beauty in korean language.

The first season of the show premiered on December 2011 and has since attracted great public attention locally and internationally. Despite the fact that the show has drawn a huge amount of negative responses and criticisms from the viewers, season 3 still ended with a very high viewers rating. Season 4 of the show is scheduled to begin early this year.

The Concept of Let Me In

The general idea of Let Me is simple. Each of the episode will follow a specific theme and applications are accepted based on the theme. For example, the theme for that episode is "Overly obese", then the application criteria for that episode is being severly obese. The applicants will have to go through a few rounds of interviews and out of the thousands, only two of them will be shortlisted as candidates for the final round of interview and voting.

The candidates who have managed to gain an entrance pass to the show have a 50/50 chance. She will have to go through another round of interview with the show MC, Hwang Shin Hye, an online shopping mall CEO, Kim Jun Hi, makeup artist, Lee Kyong Min, hairstylist, Teh Yang and image stylist, Shin Woo Shik

The show will feature the footage from the candidates' personal daily life, often comprising interviews with their family members too. The candidates will begin to tell their life story and how they are being bullied, despised and shamed by others due to their physical appearance. There are also cases where candidates illustrated their sufferings and pains that arises from illnesses or accidents that had not only caused them indescribable misery but also distortion on their original appearance.

However, no matter how heart-aching their life story was, the final vote lies in the hands of the panel of surgeons from ID Hospital, who were always seen hidden behind a huge screen door. As the interview came to an end, often very emotionally, the candidates were usually seen bursting into tears while they pleaded for a new life. At this moment, behind the screen door, the surgeons will start their rounds of discussion and debate before they finalized on a candidate. The criteria? From my observation, there are two main points to be met.

1. How will plastic surgery help and benefit the candidate's daily life? Is it really necessary and crucial that will change and give her a different and much more better life?

2. What are the limitations? How much of her facial appearance they could alter and change by surgical procedures?

The surgeons will proceed to cast their votes and the candidate with the highest votes will be the final chosen one. Of course, there were also a few exceptional cases where both candidates or none of them were chosen.

Whosoever, no matter which one of the candidate is chosen, she will have gotten the ticket to a new different life. The chosen candidate will be asked to visit their hospital for further x-rays screening and surgery discussions. The surgeons will then decide what will be the most appropriate and necessary surgical procedures for that candidate.

My Thoughts

I chanced upon Let Me In season 3 by accident. Feeling bored and extremely curious, I watched my first episode of the show. I was deeply amazed by the result of the surgery. The before and after of the transformation has left me in awe. I found myself naturally got hooked to the show as I continued to watch episode after episode.

I teared when the candidates told their life story in front of the camera. It must took such enoromous courage for a person to reveal the ugly side of their life. Not to mention in front of the hundred thousands of viewers. It makes my heart ache badly when they pleaded desperately for a new life, I could feel their suffering and pain, sincerely hoping that both of them will be able to receive some help.

However, the facts I learnt from their life story disgusted me. It revealed the ugly side of humans. How can people are bullied, depised and betrayed because of their physical appearance. Something that is so subjective and never within our control.

The Public Controversy

Despite its high viewers rating, the show has still drawn quite a lot of negative responses and criticisms from the viewers, especially in Korea. The critics are argued based on a few grounds:

1. Purely an advertising tool

I agreed that Let Me In is a product created purely for commercial purposes where CJ Entertainment needed higher viewers rating for their TV channel and ID Hospital wanted more publicity for their business.

In Korea, or even around the whole world, advertising for medical services are mostly banned. Plastic surgery services are usually advertised through the word of mouth. However, the amount of publicity the hospital could get is still very limited.

In order to bring in more profits for such medical services, sponsoring the production of Let Me In seems like a good business opportunity to ID Hospital. Although I know this is the fact of life, I am still upset to know that the doctors did not help the candidates purely for their well-being. The show was not produced with the initial intention to help patients.

The candidates, who have received free plastic surgery and makeover on the show were used as a tool for their advertising campaigns as well. By accepting the in-kind services, the candidates have indirectly agreed to wave all image rights and their before and after photos can be used for a series of advertising campaigns. This can include large billboards, signage displays, internet ads and even commercials on Youtube and movie theaters.

The billboard and elevator sticker are examples. The face on the advertisement is no other than Seo Ye Eun.

It is true that publicity is important for every business. But publicity for plastic surgery services might bring greater social problems to the country. Koreans have always been well-known for their strong pursuit for beauty. Such promotions of the services might further instill a wrong perception in them that beauty can be achieved with money.

The Public Applauds

Even so, it is an undeniable fact that plastic surgery gave the candidates a brand new life. There were many cases which I thought plastic surgery was really necessary and crucial in order for the candidates to lead a normal everyday life.

The candidate above has difficulty in chewing solid foods due to decayed teeth resulted from an accident when she was still a kid. Since then, she has been living in immense pains every seconds, not able to sleep or swallow any food. In addition, she also suffered from severe gastric erosion due to her inability to swallow food.

Plastic surgery let the candidates see light in their life. It gave them hopes, enable them to regain their long lost self confidence, esteem and dignity. They found back the reasons to smile and the desire to pursue a higher quality life.

Yes, we should grateful for what we are born with and cherish everything that are given to us by our dear parents. But I don't think we are in any position to judge or criticize the candidates. Put yourself in their shoes. Even so you might never be able to understand their pain.

Do you have courage to go under such major operation? Can you imagine how much pain they have to endure while recovering? Their artificial beauty does not come as easily as what has been shown on the TV program. 

As for ID Hospital, even though I am upset to learn the facts behind, I have no right to criticize too. The supply and demand theory applies here. Some people might be thankful that they publicized in this way, but some not. The ones who are thankful might be the ones who are demanding such services. It's bad that the surgeons are using their patients. But it is also because of them that miracles happened and changed their life. In addition, brought some of them fame due to the advertising campaigns.

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