Korean Twin Sisters Unrecognizable After Plastic Surgery

It’s no secret. In Asia, plastic surgery is becoming more and more common. In fact, double eyelid surgery is so typical that many girls have been known to receive the procedure as a graduation gift.

Aside from these minor procedures, just how far has surgery entered Asian culture? According to some, surgery has become a very serious ordeal. Photographer Ji Yeo tried to call attention to the amount of plastic surgery occurring in South Korea, by showing the physical cost women endure in “Korea’s beauty-obsessed culture.”

Additionally, more women seem to be willing to go to extreme measures to live up to the high expectation of Asian beauty. As a result, some have faced the horrifying repercussions of a surgery gone wrong.

Regardless of all this, many remain undaunted by the possible negative side effects. Plastic surgery remains more popular than ever. There’s Miss Korea who completed in the Miss Universe Pageant 2013. Kim Yumi had absolutely no problem admitting her multiple procedures. Then there’s the woman who was so obsessed with Miranda Kerr‘s looks that she decided to go under the knife in an effort to look like the Australian Victoria’s Secret model.

Now, apparently, there’s a Korean television show called “Let’s Beauty.” Asiantown.net claims that the purpose of this show is to “help those with special circumstances or people who are too ugly to feel confident in their life.” The participant facing “special circumstances” will have their plastic surgery sponsored by the television program and audiences follow along during the transformation.

A pair of twin sisters caught much attention after participating in the show. After their surgery, both twins look completely unrecognizable from their original self. Check it out for yourself:

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So tell us. Is this television show going too far or is it simply an entertaining topic? Watch an episode for below.

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Girls’ Generation’s Tiffany Interviews (And Gets A Kiss From) Tom Hiddleston

Story by Taylor Weik.

As if you couldn’t be any more jealous of Tiffany, one of the members of the global K-Pop sensation that is Girls’ Generation, another bullet point makes the list: on October 18, “Mnet Wide” released a 13-minute video of Tiffany’s interview with the British swoon-worthy actor, Tom Hiddleston.

While Hiddleston was in South Korea promoting his new movie, Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World in which he plays Thor’s deeply complex brother, Loki, Tiffany took the opportunity to interview the star about his role in the film while also showing him around the cultural spots of Seoul.

The pair wandered around on a rainy day in Seoul arm-in-arm with umbrellas while Tiffany introduced him to locations like the N Seoul Tower (“Do you find this really romantic?” Hiddleston says) and the observation deck where thousands of love locks hang off the side.

“[I’ll remember Korea] with enormous passion and affection,” Hiddleston says at the end of their interview, before promising to return to Korea “real soon.”

Watch the interview for yourself below:

Guide to Vacationing in Korea … With Three Generations Worth of Baggage

Story by Anna M. Park. 

In Korean culture, 60 is a big deal, just like the first birthday. Some people throw small galas at a local hotel ballroom. Some buy extravagant gifts. Some send parents on trips of a lifetime. The rationale for the celebration at 60 came from a time when surviving six decades (read: war-torn Korea) was a momentous achievement.

These days, not as much. Now 70 is the new 60, and if family tradition is any indication, so will every decade thereafter be. And as second-generation Korean Americans, often a “sandwich” generation raising kids while taking care of retired parents, there’s the responsibility of upholding Korean tradition and respecting your elders, while setting a good cultural example for the next generation.

So when my mother-in-law’s 70th came rolling around, we decided on a big family trip to the motherland — South Korea — a place half the family had never been. That meant seven people ranging in age from 7 to 70, only one of whom spoke fluent Korean, and another only somewhat familiar with modern Korean society. We weren’t sure where to start, but the goal was eight days, five cities, smack in the middle of spring break. Through trial and error, we learned a lot during this mother of all vacations, something that will prove useful next year for my parents’ 70th, when I’ll be doing this all over again.

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First, find a tour guide. Yes, you have to do a tour. My husband and I generally eschew tours, but for children and retirees, you need a guide. Trust me, it will save your sanity.

There are non-Korea-based English language tours, like SITA, that are pretty expensive. There are also Korea-based tour companies that are quite affordable, but the guides only speak Korean or you’re traveling on a megabus with 30 other people. My brother-in-law chanced upon Sally Tour (sallytour.co.kr) during a Google search. The founder, Sally Kim, had worked at one of Korea’s largest travel agencies, whose clients included FIFA and the LPGA, before opening her own shop in 2010. She specializes in customized group tours of seven to 10 people, with most of her clients coming from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Having lived in Canada for a while, she’s fluent in English, and we communicated with her mainly through email. She was responsive, detailed and patient throughout our myriad tweaks to the itinerary and accommodations. All in all, she made the planning part of our trip a relative breeze.

Second, pack light. This we did not heed. And though we had a minibus completely at our disposal, we were responsible for dragging our own luggage on and off the minibus, the taxi, the train and the plane, and since we changed cities practically every day, well, let’s just say the two men on the trip got plenty of exercise.

Third, personalize the itinerary. The best thing about moving through an entire country in eight days with Sally Tour is you can tweak the itinerary according to your family’s particular needs. Kimchi-making class? Our grandmothers made kimchi in our garages. Pass. A bit too much Korean food? Ask the guide for a free night like we did. We found a surprisingly good Italian place in Busan (with decent wine!). Want a bit more time to shop or linger over the hotel breakfast buffet? Ask to push back the pick-up time. The guides are generally flexible, which we really appreciated, especially towards the end of the trip when the pace of the seemingly nonstop schedule started to really wear on nerves.

Lastly, be prepared. And by that, I mean mentally and emotionally. Your mantra should be: It’s not about you — it’s about them.

You’re going to have trying times. You’re going to disagree. You may even have an almost-bar fight over why you didn’t stand up to Mike Miller for your brother in the 11th grade. But for the sake of the kids and especially your parents, be an adult about it. This trip is a microcosmic reflection of your life — you are now the grown-up. You’ve got the power. Use it for good.

This story was originally published in our Fall 2013 issue. Get your copy here

Viral Alert: Justin Bieber Kisses Sandara Park?

When we think of Justin Bieber, our minds automatically go to his never-ending collection of snapbacks, his on-and-off relationship with Selena Gomez and even to his odd obsession with the color purple.

Of all the things that come to mind when we hear Justin Bieber’s name, we certainly didn’t expect to ever add Sandara Park to that list.

Sandara, better known as Dara, is a Korean idol and member of popular girl group 2NE1. Prior to her success in Korea, Sandara gained quite a bit of popularity in the Philippines through ABS-CBN’s talent competition Star Circle Quest. 

Although we never would have paired the two together, a simple google search will show tons of stories about the duo, all of which are in shock over a picture of Bieber planting a kiss on Sandara’s cheek. Needless to say, the picture went viral and speculations sprouted everywhere.

But before you start any speculations of your own, it may be important to view the entire picture first:

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Clearly, Korean-American jeweler Ben Baller is in the picture as well. In fact he was the one who uploaded the picture and shows no signs of uncomfortable third-wheeling.

But even with the addition of a third person in this picture, netizens are going crazy over the idea of the two stars potentially having a romantic relationship, especially because of their 10-year age gap.  Oh-dara.com reports both negative and positive comments about the pair:

“Please take care Dara,”
“Justin Bieber and Sandara Park, is a fresh combo,”
“A gathering of shining stars,” “No one is even interested at Ben Baller,”
“Nooooo. My Dara-noona,”
“They must’ve talked a bit since Sandara Park can speak English well”
“Justin Bieber, please put into mind that she is a noona to you,”
“Justin Bieber fell under Sandara Park’s charm,”
“Justin Bieber and Sandara Park match each other,”
“A hot expression of affection,”
“You guys surprisingly match well,”
“Does Justin Bieber know that there’s a 10-year gap between him and Sandara Park?” “It’s nothing, Sandara Park makes anyone look good,”
“About Justin Bieber kissing Sandara Park, Justin Bieber’s fans are known to cause mischief, please be careful Sandara Park,”

 

The photo was apparently taken during a launch party for Jay Park’s hip hop label AOMG. According to Soompi, Justin Bieber is currently going through his Asian tour and is (clearly) making friends along the way.


Korean Woman Gets Plastic Surgery to Look Like Miranda Kerr

Story by James S. Kim

Complete makeovers aren’t uncommon. Some of us at some point might need a change in how we do things or in how we look. The question is, then, how far are you willing to change, and what type of person are you willing to become?

For one South Korean woman, it was a question of whom. On a recent episode of Martian X-Files, a Korean reality TV show that spotlights eccentric and unique non-celebrities, one of the guests was a woman who underwent plastic surgery to look like Australian model Miranda Kerr.

The wannabe emphasized that she only had work done on her eyes and nose, according to Soompi. Even from a young age, she said, people would tell her mother that she looked like an “adorable non-Korean child” and asked if her father was from overseas. One time, the guest and her mother got into a taxi. The driver, thinking that they were foreigners, asked where they were from and was surprised when they responded in Korean.

The segment followed the guest as she goes through her makeup ritual. She begins with the universal step one, foundation. The next step is her eyebrows, to which she adds a sharp taper to imitate Kerr’s. She spends the most time on the eyes, then adds some emphasis to her lips to round out the cosmetics portion.

The final step is to add in the colored contacts, given that the hair is the proper style and color. Add in some posing sessions in front of the mirror, and she’s good to go.

So why the obsession with Miranda Kerr, who visited Seoul to great fanfare last June. Some say that Kerr’s appeal is because her looks are a perfect combination of cute and sexy, a look many East Asian young women wish to achieve. For some, by any means necessary.

For those unwilling to go under the knife, here’s an extensive but relatively painless step-by-step makeup tutorial on creating the Miranda Kerr look by YouTube makeup artist Michelle Phan.

This story was originally published by KoreAm Journal

Aaron Kwok, Ken Watanabe and More at the 18th Annual Busan International Film Festival

Glamorous stars, stunning (sometimes shocking) fashion, blinding lights and a seemingly mile-long red carpet.

The Oscars? Cannes? Nope, it’s Opening Night at the Busan International Film Festival. And this time, the stars garnering the screams from fans are some of the most beautiful people from all around Asia.

Since its inception in 1996, the Busan International Film Festival (formerly, Pusan) has grown into arguably the biggest, most important film festival in all of Asia. Located in the seaside city of Busan, about 200 miles south of South Korea’s capital of Seoul, the film festival (also known as BIFF) draws thousands of film execs, media and international stars from around the world.

 

Aaron Kwok in a Longines ad.

Aaron Kwok in a Longines ad.

This year, the 18th annual BIFF, sponsored by prestige cosmetics line Artistry, kicks off this Thursday, October 3, with a red carpet screening of Vara: A Blessing, the third feature film by director and Bhutan priest Khyentse Norbu. Taiwanese mega-star Aaron Kwok is set to moderate the opening ceremony, and throughout the 10-day festival, we can expect to see luminaries like Ken Watanabe, who’ll be starring in Japan’s version of Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven; and Vietnamese American actor Dustin Nguyen, whose film Once Upon a Time in Vietnam, which he directed, with have its international premiere.

Other highly anticipated films screening at BIFF include Joon-ho Bong‘s Snowpiercer, starring Kang-ho Song, Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton and Ed Harris; the controversial film Moebius by Ki-duk Kim; Bill Condon’s The Fifth Estate about Julian Assange; and The Coen BrothersInside Llewyn Davis.

Kang-ho Song in Snowpiercer.

Kang-ho Song in Snowpiercer.

And of course, there will be tons of fashion (and films!) to evaluate. It’ll be a veritable eye candy fest. Stay tuned as Audrey goes to BIFF and gets a firsthand look at Opening Night!

The Busan Cinema Center, courtesy of Busan International Film Festival Korea, biff.kr.

The Busan Cinema Center, courtesy of Busan International Film Festival Korea, biff.kr.

 

The Cost of Beauty: A Look Into Korea’s High Rate of Plastic Surgery

Based in Brooklyn and Seoul, photographer Ji Yeo strives to call attention to a very controversial aspect of South Korea’s modern-day culture: plastic surgery.

In her series “Beauty Recovery Room,” Ji Yeo captures the scars and bruises of women who have recently undergone plastic surgery. DailyMail explains that by showing the painful recovery, Ji Yeo aims to shine light on the physical cost women endure in “Korea’s beauty-obsessed culture.”

“Plastic surgery has become an integral part of Korea’s current culture, often regarded as an integral step in the self improvement process,” say Ji Yeo. “It is a culture where men are judged on their financial balance sheet and women on their beauty. The male-dominated media endlessly reinforces its model of the idea woman. As a result of these cultural forces Korea has become a beauty-oriented society where people are judged more for their appearance than their character.”

“Beauty Recovery Room” has garnered both positive and negative reactions. Some people believe the take-home message is that women simply go too far to meet societal expectations. Others disagree with Ji Yeo’s focus on the negative. “I think people have a right in our day and age to change whatever physical feature they deem necessary” says a Huffington Post reader.

Check out the images for yourself and tell us what you think:

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Check out all the full gallery here.

Too Harsh? Korean Parents Introduce “The Study Cube”

A tiny study room about the size of a large portable toilet is becoming a sought after piece of furniture among Korean parents who wish to help their children stay focused while hitting the books.

Last year, South Korea’s environmentally-friendly furniture manufacturer Emok unveiled the Study Cube, a wooden box just big enough to seat one person in front of a built-in desk. The box comes with a bookshelf, whiteboard, LED light, outlet and ventilation grill. There’s even a massage bar under the desk that also serves as a footrest.

“Students can avoid distractions of staying at libraries with the Study Cube,” Emok CEO Choi Ki-ju said. “It will also help them focus on their studies more.”

The Study Cube retails for about $2,200.

Story by Steve Han. This article was originally published in KoreAm Journal.

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The Baby Box: Hope for Abandoned Babies of South Korea

Things on the internet go viral for a reason.

Videos of puppies and babies go viral because the cuteness appeases us. Controversial news goes viral because, as much as we hate to admit it, we’re pulled in by the drama.  Ridiculous music videos go viral because we all like a good laugh once in a while.

But every now and then, amidst my corgi-filled newsfeed, I come across something amazing. Because sometimes things don’t go viral simply because its cute or dramatic or funny. Sometimes, things go viral because we understand that people should know about it.

This is one of them.

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South Korean pastor, Lee Jong-rak, decided that he would create a solution for the hundreds of babies—many with mental and physical disabilities—who are abandoned in the streets of South Korea.  The pastor created a “Baby Box” where mothers can leave their unwanted children. Pastor Jong-rak  points out that mothers who have no where to turn sometimes end up with the idea to poison their baby rather than have their child endure a life of struggle. The “Baby Box”, he argues, would be a much better alternative for desperate mothers.

The inside of the box contains a thick towel covering the bottom, and lights and heating to keep the baby comfortable.  A bell rings when someone puts a baby in the box, alerting Jong-rak, his wife, or staff associates to come immediately and move the baby inside.  Although the paster originally believed many mothers would not turn to the “Baby Box”, he was mistaken. His house now doubles as an orphanage.

Often times, the pastor doesn’t even get a glimpse of the mothers who leave their babies in the box. Other times, the mother gives him a tearful apology. One single mother left this note with her baby. The english translation follows.

“My baby! Mom is so sorry.
I am so sorry to make this decision. 
My son! I hope you to meet great parents, and I am very, very sorry . 
I don’t deserve to say a word. 
Sorry, sorry, and I love you my son. 
Mom loves you more than anything else. 
I leave you here because I don’t know who your father is. 
I used to think about something bad, but I guess this box is safer for you. 
That’s why I decided to leave you here. My son, Please forgive me.”

Filmmaker Brian Ivie heard the inspirational story and travelled over to South Korea to make his documentary Drop Box. During an award acceptance speech for the documentary, Ivie explains that seeing the babies dropped off changed his life.

Although it has already been a few years since pastor Lee Jong-rak began the “Baby Box”, this story is now finally receiving the recognition it deserves.

Things on the internet go viral for a reason. Every now and then, I’m thankful for this.

 

Dream Destinations | Asia’s “Newest Wonders” & Its “Best Islands”

This past July, Travel & Leisure released the list of the “Newest Wonders of the World,” a list, compiled by UNESCO, of World Heritage sites, or places around the globe that have “cultural, historical and environmental importance.”  In addition, the well-known travel mag released their picks (with the help of readers) of the “World’s Best Islands,” complete with white-sand beaches and romantic get-aways. Seeing these lists will spark the travel bug in anyone, and we’re very happy to say that Asia is well-featured on the list.  Take a look below for the newest additions to our travel bucket-list in Asia.

The Newest World Wonders

Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, China
Located in southern Yunnan and over 1300 years old, the Honghe Hani Rice Terraces are a complex system developed by the Hani people to channel water from the Ailao Mountains to their as-equally sophisticated terraces and farms.

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Hill Forts of Rajasthan, India
Found in the Aravalli Mountains lies six forts that are “a standing testament to the power that Rajput princes enjoyed from the 8th to 18th century.” These series of eclectic forts utilizes the natural surroundings, such as hills, deserts and rivers, as defense while also using fortified walls to protect temples, palaces and other structures.

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Mount Fuji, Japan
Also known as “Fujisan,” Mount Fuji has become an icon of Japan, serving as an artistic muse as well as a site of sacred pilgrimage. As described by UNESCO, “The inscribed property consists of 25 sites which reflect the essence of Fujisan’s sacred landscape” including Shengen-jinja shrines, natural volcanic features, lakes and waterfalls.
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Kaesong’s Historical Sites, Korea
Located in the often-elusive DPRK and near the demilitarized zone, Kaesong is made up of 12 different sites that tell the story of Korea’s Koryo Dynasty.
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Xinjiang Tianshan, China
Taking up over 600,000 hectares and part of Central Asia’s Tianshin mountain range, Xinjian Tianshin is made up of a four geographically diverse components (Tomur, Kalajun-Kuerdening, Bayinbukuke and Bogda), ranging from snow-capped mountains to forests and meadows to wide-spanning deserts.
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World’s Best Islands
Palawan, Philippines (No. 1)
A favorite get-away of both local and foreign celebrities (including Mariah Carey, Pretty Little Liars’ Shay Mitchell, and Rachel Weisz), Palawan has a pure, almost surreal beauty that is something out of a movie.  When you’re there, go diving in the area’s warm waters and find yourself surrounded by natural coral reefs and abundant tropical fish or check out the world’s longest underground, navigable river.

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Boracay, Philippines (No. 2)
An hour’s plane ride away from the hustle and bustle of Manila, Boracay offers visitors white-sand beaches, crystal clear blue water and a well-developed nightlife scene.

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Bali, Indonesia (No. 6)
With its myriad of landscapes, ranging from rice terraces to rugged coastlines (not to mention to the world-famous beaches), Bali has become one of Indonesia’s largest tourist attractions, drawing in people from all over the globe for its “world-class surfing and diving, a large number of cultural, historical and archaeological attractions, and an enormous range of accommodations (Wiki).”
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Koh Samui, Thailand (No. 9)
This 13-mile wide island, referred to as simply “Samui” by locals, is a favorite of beach-lovers and backpackers alike with its numerous and beautiful natural resources, perfect beaches, clear water and coral reefs.

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Phuket, Thailand (No. 15)
The largest island in Thailand, Phuket is the Southeast Asian country’s most developed isle with world-renowned beaches, affordable (and more expensive) dining, fancy resorts and much more.  Be sure to make your way to the almost-undiscovered Mai Khao Beach or the visually stunning Phang Nga Bay.

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For more information on this year’s additions to UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites as well as a complete list of all World Heritage Sites, visit UNESCO.

[All images courtesy of Google]