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Face of modern-day feminism in Seoul

16 0 1
By Andrea Plate

"If I Had Your Face," Frances Cha's debut novel (Ballantine Books), tells the story of four young women struggling to succeed in cosmetically competitive Seoul, the plastic surgery capital of the world, where one in three persons under age 30 will most likely have had "work done."

Cha's heroines are defined not by their intelligence, personality or achievements, but by a kind of precision beauty ― surgically sculpted facial features that make or break their futures.

Cha is truly cosmopolitan. Born and educated in America, now based in New York, a former travel and culture editor for CNN in Seoul and Hong Kong, she knows one, indisputable truth: All women, everywhere on earth, know the agony of seeing another woman and thinking, "If I had your face …"

Cha's story unfolds in brief, easy-to-read chapters alternately told in the first-person voices of her principal characters. Kiyuri is an "electrically beautiful," 20-something fighter-fish who swims from the low-life, low class joints of South Korea's red light district upstream, to the high-class, high-cost service industry of room salons along the Beauty Belt in Apgujeong-dong, southern Seoul, where men pay dearly to drink alcohol in the company of beautiful women.

She snags a top spot at Ajax, the high-end salon which pays the highest fees to "the prettiest top ten percent," in addition to this big bonus: Employees don't have to have sex with their clients.

Kyuri is not just another pretty face. She's the supermodel of cosmetic surgery, with double eyelid stitches; jaw and cheekbone reduction (otherwise known as V-line surgery); eyelash extensions; and eye-line tattoos, not to........

© The Korea Times