updated 13 Apr 2014, 07:21
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Wed, Jun 26, 2013
The Korea Herald/Asia News Network
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Glorification or true transformation?

An overweight 20- year-old man with breasts and "unattractive facial features", as well as a 30-year-old woman suffering from excessive hair growth due to a hormonal malfunction, say that they have found a second life.

They each went under the knife and were strongly driven to shed their weight. And when they walked out into the "world" with vulnerable hearts, hundreds of thousands of people gave them the victory sign and applauded them for looking "unbelievably great".

These were the "lucky" two picked for dramatic makeovers depicted in Let Me In, a cosmetic- surgery makeover reality-TV show which is back for its third season on South Korean cable channel StoryOn.

According to the production crew, the show this year attracted the most applicants since its launch in 2011.

The number of applicants increased from 300 for the first season to 2,000 for the second, and to 4,300 for the third.

The show "aims to offer physical, psychological and social help to those who are suffering because of their appearances" from a panel of specialists that range from plastic surgeons and a dentist, to a psychiatrist and stylists.

And as the number of applicants suggests, more and more people are willing to cut their chins and jaws or inject fillers in their noses and foreheads to achieve their desire to become "beautiful" - even if being on TV means that the whole country, and possibly the world, will share the experience.

Or perhaps, some suggest, it is the other way round - TV is encouraging people to transform.

Culture critic Lee Sun Young recently wrote in a newspaper column:

"The makeover reality show has been a popular genre on cable TV networks, starting with the first cosmetic-surgery reality show, Challenge, Cinderella, in 2003. Since then, the makeover shows have played a significant role in driving the cosmetic surgery boom and trend in South Korea."

But some viewers say the programme makes people believe that cosmetic surgery is simple.

In fact, in the course of transformation, some put themselves through risky procedures such as jawline surgery, which used to be limited to people with dental problems.

Executive producer Park Min Woo vowed that the show focuses on making over one's life, instead of just changing one's looks.

But detractors claim that it drives demand for cosmetic surgery in South Korea by glorifying the dramatic transformation of contestants who undergo multiple operations.

Viewers also pointed out that the show downplays contestants' problems to a matter of looks, ignoring overall societal or other factors.

"Some contestants experience family separation, poverty and violence, which are mostly from social structural problems, but the show somehow blames those problems on their looks," wrote critic Lee.

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