Psy taught us what Gangnam Style means, but who is a Gangnam beauty? One can’t help but wonder, especially when the premiere of a rom-com K-drama called “My ID is Gangnam Beauty” is just around the corner.

Here’s what Gangnam beauty means

Gangnam beauty (강남미인) refers to someone who’s attractive but looks as if they went through a number of plastic surgeries for a pretty face, a hot body or both. Gangnam being Seoul’s most affluent area, 36% of plastic surgery clinics in Korea are located in Gangnam according to Gallup. So Gangnam beauty is a euphemism for a plastic beauty or a plastic beast, depending on the context. Both expressions, which are pretty self-explanatory, have been around since the early 2010s.

Beauty in Korea means having strong facial features. An example is the Western double fold of the eyelids or a visibly prominent bone structure of the nose. Defined facial features aren’t common for a Korean face. But uncommon doesn’t mean fake. A natural beauty can have defined features, just as someone who had surgeries can look natural.

Appearance is important in life according to 86% of 1,500 participants of the aforementioned Gallup survey. This trend remains unchanged since 1994. Three out of 10 women in their twenties have had a plastic surgery. 65% of Koreans find men undergoing plastic surgery for better job prospects and women for marriage socially acceptable.

Prevalence of plastic surgeries in Korea

The statistics are depressing, but that’s the reality. Celebrities have openly admitted to plastic surgeries. Brown Eyed Girls filmed a parody m/v of plastic monsters for SNL Korea. There’s a reality show dedicated to the plastic surgery experience called ‘Let Me In,’ and an online store for plastic surgeries called Gangnam Sister.

And “My ID is Gangnam Beauty” is here to change the plastic surgery narrative. It doesn’t glorify or denounce plastic surgery. Plastic surgery is simply a medium for this bildungsroman which follows Kang Mi Rae (Im Soo Hyang), Do Kyung Suk (Astro’s Cha Eun Woo), and Hyun Soo Ah (Cho Woo Ri) grow over the course of the story.

Watch the “My ID is Gangnam Beauty” cast discuss the drama at the press conference below.

What are your thoughts on the phrase Gangnam beauty?