Chris Stokel-Walker introduces us to Leo Jiang, who used to be Hao Jiang and is one of the thousands of people each year who get plastic surgery in order to look less Asian and more Western. Or not.
“Race does not enter the consciousness [in Asia] in the same way it does here,” explains Sharon Lee, an assistant professor at New York University who has written extensively about plastic surgery in Asia. “It’s easy to pathologize a whole country of people.” The West’s preoccupation with race colors its opinion, projecting discomfort onto surgery that for many may not have any overt racial elements. “This notion that Korean women want to become white becomes a really easy answer,” Lee says. “That’s not to say that race isn’t important, but when we stop there we’re overlooking much larger structural and historical phenomenons. No Korean woman says, ‘I want to look white.’”