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Nam Center Colloquium Series | Making over 'The Big Reveal': Neoliberal Multiculturalism and the Globalizing of the South Korean "Look" in Medical Tourism YouTube Videos

S. Heijin Lee, Assistant Professor, Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University
Tuesday, April 20, 2021
4:30-5:45 PM
Off Campus Location
Please note: This session will be held virtually EST through Zoom. This webinar is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Once you've registered the joining information will be sent to your email.

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Searching the words, “South Korean Plastic Surgery” on YouTube will lead to a plethora of vlogs with variations on the titles: “I Got Plastic Surgery in Korea” and “My Plastic Surgery Experience in Korea.” Typically sponsored by South Korean plastic surgery clinics or medical tourism agencies, such vlogs chronicle the YouTuber’s journey to South Korea to receive multiple surgeries as well as the pain of recovery and of course, surgery’s results. Given our social media driven landscape, these videos have become a key mode of advertising for South Korean clinics hoping to entice Western and/or English-speaking foreigners into traveling abroad for surgery. Focusing on videos and interviews with specifically non-Korean, US-born YouTubers, in this talk I show how these self-filmed YouTube videos are remaking reality television’s Makeover genre. In so doing, these videos enact the South Korean “look,” made popular by K-pop idols, as global by literally showcasing non-Korean bodies being transformed as such. In addition to selling South Korean plastic surgery, I argue that these videos animate US K-pop fans’ fantasies of South Korea as a multicultural alternative to hegemonic whiteness.

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.

If there is anything we can do to make this event accessible to you, please contact us. Please be aware that advance notice is necessary as some accommodations may require more time for the university to arrange.
Building: Off Campus Location
Location: Virtual
Event Type: Livestream / Virtual
Tags: Asia, Korea
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Nam Center for Korean Studies, International Institute, Asian Languages and Cultures