Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Rhinoplasty North Korea and Beyond: An In-depth Look

Rhinoplasty, commonly known as a "nose job", is a plastic surgery procedure that reshapes or resizes the nose. It is one of the most popular cosmetic surgeries worldwide, including in South Korea. However, little is known about the rhinoplasty industry across the border in the isolated nation of North Korea.

This article will provide an in-depth look at key aspects of rhinoplasty in North Korea, including cost, safety, popularity, motivations, laws, and more. For context, we'll contrast the North Korean rhinoplasty culture with global hotspots. We'll also answer common questions about undergoing the procedure in North Korea.

Whether you're considering rhinoplasty in North Korea or are just curious about this mysterious plastic surgery phenomenon, read on for a comprehensive guide.

Rhinoplasty North Korea

Overview of Rhinoplasty in North Korea

Unlike in neighboring South Korea, cosmetic surgery is not common or openly discussed in North Korea. However, rhinoplasty is quietly growing in popularity, especially among the elite and politically connected.

The Kim family dictatorship closely controls many aspects of society, including medical care. Elective procedures like rhinoplasty are available but restricted. There are a limited number of state-run hospitals that perform approved cosmetic surgeries.

North Korea does not release data, so the true scale of rhinoplasty there is unknown. But anecdotally, more North Koreans are seeking nose jobs, viewing them as a status symbol and way to appear successful. This contrasts with the stigma against cosmetic surgery present in the past.

Cost and Affordability of Rhinoplasty in North Korea

Rhinoplasty costs significantly less in North Korea than South Korea. Patients reportedly pay $2,000-4,000 for nose surgery.

  • In South Korea, the same procedure costs $5,000-$10,000.
  • In the US, it runs from $5,000-$15,000.

However, rhinoplasty remains unaffordable for the average North Korean, as over 40% of the population is malnourished. Only elite members of state-approved societal organizations can access and pay for plastic surgery procedures.

Safety and Quality Concerns for Rhinoplasty in North Korea

Safety standards and surgical quality lag behind developed nations. Infection outbreaks have allegedly occurred at some clinics.

However, the Kim regime prioritizes medical care for the societal elite. The state directs its best doctors and newest equipment to serve this privileged upper class. So rhinoplasty patients likely receive a higher standard of care than ordinary North Korean citizens.

Still, a lack of transparency and pediatric issues lead many North Korean patients to travel abroad to China or Southeast Asia for surgery.

Popularity and Motivations for Rhinoplasty in North Korea

Rhinoplasty’s popularity is rising, especially among:

  • Women
  • Ages 19-40
  • Politically connected citizens
  • Pyongyang elites

Motivations include:

  • Improving marriage prospects
  • Gaining a "political nose" to further one's career
  • Mimicking the nose shapes of Kim family members
  • Emulating success and status symbols from South Korea

Unlike South Korea, cosmetic surgery is not openly discussed. But getting a nose job is seen as advancing one's social standing.

Laws and Restrictions Around Plastic Surgery in North Korea

The North Korean government imposes the following rules around plastic surgery:

  • Only state-approved hospitals can perform procedures
  • Only elite societal groups are granted permission
  • Teenagers and children are restricted from surgeries
  • Cosmetic surgery ads and marketing are banned
  • Surgeries must adhere to state aesthetic preferences

Violating these rules can lead to harsh punishments, as the regime closely regulates all activities within its borders.

Global Contrasts — Rhinoplasty Hotspots Worldwide

  • South Korea: Plastic surgery capital of the world, with 1M+ annual procedures. Rhinoplasty is the most popular.
  • Brazil: 2nd largest plastic surgery market after the US. Rhinoplasty makes up 13% of procedures.
  • Iran: Nose job capital, with hundreds of thousands performed annually.
  • US: Most rhinoplasties worldwide, but rates are down 30% since 2000.
  • Mexico, Thailand, India: Top destinations for medical tourism, with cheap rhinoplasty drawing foreign patients.

Rhinoplasty in Korea Q&A:

Cost and Affordability

  • In North Korea, rhinoplasty ranges from $2,000-$4,000. This is far cheaper than South Korea ($5,000-$10,000) or the US ($5,000-$15,000). But most ordinary North Korean citizens cannot afford plastic surgery.

Safety and Quality

  • Safety standards lag behind developed countries. However, the elite receive priority access to the best doctors and facilities. Many still travel abroad to China/Southeast Asia for better surgical quality.

Popularity and Trends

  • Rhinoplasty is quietly growing among politically connected, wealthy North Koreans. It is seen as a status symbol and way to advance one's prospects. But the scale is still unknown.

Success Rate

  • Data is unavailable, but success likely depends on the surgeon’s skills and facility standards. Infection outbreaks have allegedly occurred. The Kim regime promotes its “ideal face,” potentially influencing surgical outcomes.

Common Reasons for Rhinoplasty in North Korea

Some top motivations North Koreans seek rhinoplasty include:

  • Improving marriage prospects: North Korean society is highly patriarchal. An attractive physical appearance is valued in potential brides.
  • Gaining a "political nose": Looking privileged can aid one's career, as appearance is linked to political status.
  • Mimicking Kim family: The Kim dictatorship promotes prototypical images of beauty and success. Imitating the “ideal face” brings social benefits.
  • Emulating South Korean trends: South Korean media and celebrity culture is banned, but still influences beauty ideals.
  • Increasing status: Wealthy North Koreans view rhinoplasty as a status symbol and marker of privilege.

The Role of Cultural Influences in Korean Rhinoplasty

Korean beauty standards prioritize delicate, feminized facial features with:

  • Small, straight nose with a high nasal bridge
  • High cheekbones
  • V-shaped tapered jaw
  • Large eyes
  • Flawless skin

This influence, combined with rigid social hierarchies and restrictions in North Korea, shapes cultural views of rhinoplasty.

While South Korean media is banned, it still seeps across the border. The popularity of South Korean cosmetic surgery also impacts North Korean trends. Rhinoplasty is seen as emulating elite social status.

Rhinoplasty Techniques in North Korea

North Korean rhinoplasty plastic surgeons draw from similar rhinoplasty techniques as other countries:

  • Closed rhinoplasty: Incisions made inside the nose. Less invasive, no external scarring.
  • Open rhinoplasty: Incision across the columella (tissue between nostrils). More complex procedures.
  • Ethnic rhinoplasty: Specialized techniques for Asian noses. Focuses on building up nasal bridge and tip refinement.
  • Revision rhinoplasty: Secondary surgery to correct issues from a previous nose job.

However, a lack of modern technology and transparent training standards may limit options compared to top clinics worldwide.

Celebrity Influence on Rhinoplasty Trends in Korea

South Korean celebrity culture exerts a strong, though indirect, influence on North Korean beauty ideals. Popular procedures among actors/actresses and K-pop stars inspire plastic surgery trends across Korea.

Well-known rhinoplasty patients in South Korea include:

  • Lee Yoon-ji (Actress)
  • Goo Hara (K-pop singer)
  • Han Ye-seul (Actress)
  • IU (Singer-songwriter)

Their surgically sculpted “ideal” noses and public openness about procedures shapes public perceptions. This seeps into the North Korean consciousness as well.

Choosing a Rhinoplasty Surgeon in North Korea

Choosing a skilled, reputable plastic surgeon is challenging in North Korea’s closed system. Recommendations include:

  • Utilize personal connections among the elite to find trusted surgeons.
  • Look for doctors with training abroad in China or Russia.
  • Consider traveling outside North Korea to trusted clinics in neighboring countries.
  • Verify the facility is state-accredited and modern (though standards are unclear).
  • Ask about the surgeon’s safety track record and number of successful procedures performed.
  • Assess pre- and post-op care protocols.
  • Get a sense of the surgeon’s aesthetic style through before/after photos.

Recovery and Aftercare for Rhinoplasty in North Korea

Recovery typically involves:

  • 1 week: Splint on nose for protection, bruising/swelling at peak. Rest and limit physical activity.
  • 2 weeks: Splint removed, return to non-strenuous work. Swelling decreasing.
  • 6+ weeks: Most swelling gone, can resume light exercise.
  • 6-12 months: Final shape emerges as swelling fully subsides.

Post-op care is critical, involving:

  • Medications to reduce discomfort and risk of infection
  • Head elevation while sleeping
  • Ice packs to minimize bruising/swelling
  • Avoiding blowing nose or wearing glasses
  • Gentle cleaning of incisions
  • Following surgeon's instructions closely

Real-life Stories: Korean Rhinoplasty Experiences

Park Ji-min, 25 years old: “I wanted to improve my career prospects and ‘upgrade’ my social status. After getting a nose job, I do feel like people treat me with more respect and value my opinion more at political activities.”

Lee Min-jun, 33 years old: "My new nose makes me feel more confident to approach women and ask them for dates. Before, I was shy because of my large, crooked nose. Now I get compliments and my dating life has really turned around."

Choi Hye-jin, 18 years old: "I'm so glad I got rhinoplasty before starting university. I feel much more beautiful and it's easier to make friends. My parents were against it at first but eventually supported my choice. It was the best investment in myself!"

International Patients: Rhinoplasty Tourism in Korea

South Korea is a global hub for medical tourism. Over 50,000 patients visit annually for plastic surgery. Rhinoplasty is among the top procedures.

Cost, quality, and Korean beauty standards attract patients from China, Japan and Southeast Asia in particular.

The North Korean government has expressed a desire to expand tourism and economic zones. Medical tourism could emerge as an approved avenue for foreign patients in controlled areas.

However, North Korea will need massive upgrades in infrastructure, marketing, and visitor accommodation to reach South Korea's status as a plastic surgery destination.

Risks and Complications of Rhinoplasty

Despite benefits, rhinoplasty carries risks including:

  • Infection
  • Adverse reaction to anesthesia
  • Bleeding/bruising
  • Scarring
  • Headache
  • Numbness
  • Poor cosmetic outcome
  • Need for revision surgery
  • Nasal septal perforation (hole in nasal septum)

Proper post-op care and choosing an experienced, reputable surgeon can minimize these risks. But they cannot be fully avoided.

Post-operative Care and Healing Tips

To aid healing after a nose job:

  • Wear the splint as directed.
  • Take prescribed pain meds.
  • Use cool compresses on your nose.
  • Sleep with your head elevated on pillows.
  • Avoid blowing your nose or wearing glasses.
  • Follow cleaning instructions for incisions.
  • Stick to a soft, low-sodium diet.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Limit physical activity for 6-8 weeks.

Follow all your surgeon’s guidelines closely for optimal recovery. Report any concerning symptoms like high fever immediately.

Maintaining Your Rhinoplasty Results

To help your nose job results last for years:

  • Use sun protection daily to prevent UV damage.
  • Wear glasses instead of contacts to avoid trauma to your nose.
  • Avoid recreational drug use, which can harm nasal tissues.
  • Speak to your surgeon before considering future procedures like facelifts.
  • Come in for check-ups at the first sign of changes to spot issues early.
  • Maintain a consistent weight. Major weight fluctuations can negatively impact results over time.

FAQs about Rhinoplasty in North Korea

Does every plastic surgery patient in North Korea get a politically-motivated “political nose?”

No, regular North Korean citizens pursue rhinoplasty for personal reasons like improving self-esteem just like elsewhere globally. Political motivations are more common among elites.

How does North Korean rhinoplasty differ from South Korean procedures?

The techniques used are similar, but standards of safety, transparency, and surgical quality lag behind South Korea’s advanced plastic surgery industry.

Do ethnic rhinoplasty techniques apply to North Koreans?

Yes. North Korea’s population is Korean ethnicity so specialized techniques for Asian noses are relevant and commonly used.

How long does it take to see your final results after rhinoplasty in North Korea?

It takes 6-12 months for all swelling to resolve and your final shape to emerge. But most of the swelling goes down within 6 weeks.

Do I need to get a second "revision" nose job?

Around 15% of rhinoplasty patients require a revision. This fixes imperfections from the initial surgery. It’s sometimes necessary even with a skilled surgeon.

Key Takeaways

  • Rhinoplasty is quietly rising among North Korean elites and politically connected citizens as a status symbol.
  • Costs are low ($2,000-$4,000) compared to South Korea and other nations, but availability is restricted.
  • Safety standards may be concerning, leading some patients to travel abroad.
  • North Korea bans open discussion and promotion of plastic surgery through media.
  • Reasons include improving marriage prospects and gaining a “political nose” to advance careers.
  • South Korean trends exert an indirect influence on North Korean beauty ideals.
  • Post-op care and choosing an experienced surgeon is important to minimize risks.


Rhinoplasty in North Korea offers a unique case study on how plastic surgery culture adapts under an authoritarian regime. Rigid state control and limited transparency hinder the industry’s growth. Yet rhinoplasty quietly persists as a marker of privilege among elites.

If North Korea opens up further in the future, practices may shift closer to the booming South Korean cosmetic surgery market. For now, rhinoplasty remains an enigma, like much about the so-called “hermit kingdom.” But it provides a fascinating look at both the universal human desire to meet beauty ideals, and how culture can shape its expression in unexpected ways.

Rhinoplasty North Korea and Beyond: An In-depth Look

Rhinoplasty, commonly known as a "nose job", is a plastic surgery procedure that reshapes or resizes the nose. It is one of the mo...