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The complex culture and history behind 'K-beauty'

South Korea's beauty industry thrives on twin goals of conformity and perfection

The quest for slim jaws and wide eyes is common in South Korea -- and, with open attitudes to cosmetic surgery, it's easily accomplished. The enormous beauty industry is fuelled by celebrity imitation and informed by western ideals.

Walk into one of South Korea's ubiquitous cosmetic pharmacies and you'll find a wide selection of double-eyelid tape and glue products to create creases for the perfect almond-shaped eyes. Kim Lena, a 37-year-old analyst for an online-games company in Seoul, was a religious user of these products in her teenage years, like thousands of other young South Koreans. Later, during university, she and two friends -- again, like many other South Koreans -- made the double-eyelid look permanent via cosmetic surgery. "I didn't think much of it," she says. "Except that I didn't have to get messy with glue anymore."

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