SEOUL, Nov. 28 (Korea Bizwire) — Seoul Metro announced plans on Monday to ban all plastic surgery advertisements from the city’s metro system by 2020.
The latest move by Seoul Metro has been met with praise amid growing criticism over what is known as ‘advertisement pollution’, characterized by the overwhelming number of advertisement images found in Seoul Metro stations.
In an official statement released this week, Seoul Metro explained that the motive behind the ban is to tackle lookism, a social issue rampant in South Korea.
“Plastic surgery ads have been perceived as a source of lookism and the sexualization of the female body, and there has been a rise in the number of complaints in response to them, due to the growing interest in gender issues such as sexism since 2015,” a company spokesperson said.
Nearly 1,200 complaints were filed over advertisements between Line 1 and Line 4 last year, according to Seoul Metro, with over 90 percent related to plastic surgery or sexism.
As part of a major advertisement overhaul, Seoul Metro is cutting down on the total volume of advertisements, while potentially declaring war on plastic surgery advertisements, a move that could redesign the landscape of the city’s subway system.
While plastic surgery ads will be gradually replaced with public interest and arts advertisements to present a more cultural atmosphere around subway stations, it is not the first time a countermeasure was put in place to tackle a culture that encourages the unhealthy consumption of cosmetic surgery.
A number of plastic surgery clinics were fined by the Fair Trade Commission over false advertising in September, after using drastically different before-and-after pictures, including Secret Plastic Surgery and Face Line Plastic Surgery.
In one picture, the model was wearing makeup and had her hair styled, juxtaposed with another of the same person with no makeup on with messy hair, a deceptive marketing tactic often designed to seemingly maximize the result of plastic surgery procedures.
Though the Fair Trade Commission advises plastic surgeons to take pictures of patients before and after the surgery in the same settings, many advertisements are still accused of modification and deceptive editing.
As plastic surgery can be closely linked to health and quality of life, the Fair Trade Commission urges the medical industry in particular to do away with false advertising.
Data from Incheon International Airport Corporation that was disclosed earlier this year by lawmaker Hong Cheol-ho also found a similar issue at Incheon Airport, where the number of public interest advertisements has dropped, while plastic surgery advertisements continue to appear.
Hong slammed the lack of variety in advertising at the international airport, while calling for a quota to accommodate more advertisements reflecting values in the interest of the public, such as tourist attractions and regional products.
The growing effort to make plastic surgery advertisements disappear in public spaces reflects the negative public sentiment towards the unhealthy demand for plastic surgery, which is often encouraged by omnipresent advertisements, whether it be on TV or public transport.
When the news first broke in September about a proposal for a plastic surgery clinic at Incheon Aiport that was intended to attract international tourists, it drew a storm of criticism from the public and the medical industry itself before it was finally cancelled.
Incheon International Airport Corporation was mired in criticism over the now botched project, which was seemingly driven by financial reasons, with only one clinic having shown interest.
The Korean Medical Association was highly critical of the airport’s support for the project, saying that the corporation should have considered possible medical issues surrounding plastic surgery patients who might not have been able to board a plane afterwards.
Hyunsu Yim (firstname.lastname@example.org)