After plastic surgery 'I felt like I sinned': one woman's feelings after going under the knife

Published 24 June 2014  |  
(Photo: Flavio Takemoto)

Jessica Choi lives in Los Angeles but flew all the way to South Korea to achieve her desired look.

The 33-year-old property manager described suffering the most excruciating pain to have her nose redone, her eyes enlarged and jaw contoured.

To further sculpt her face into her beauty ideal, she even had fat from her abdomen grafted to her forehead.

It's not the first time she's gone under the knife to modify her appearance. She previously had a nose job and double eyelid procedure.

Choi is just one of many women flocking to South Korea, where the plastic surgery industry is booming.

The Economist put the number of cosmetic procedures performed in South Korea in 2011 at 650,000 – equivalent to around one in five Korean women.

The Asian Century Institute reported in March this year that while in the US, the most popular procedures are breast augmentation and lipoplasty, Korean women are lapping up the double eyelid surgery and rhinoplasty. Although the institute added that the desire is not so much to look Western as to look like their favourite Korean celebrities.

Choi explained to ABCNews's "Nightline" programme that she was motivated partly by the feeling that her eyes were never large enough, and partly out of a desire to begin afresh after coming out of an abusive relationship.

"I used to even get made fun of when I was little for having 'Asian eyes'," Choi told Nightline.

Interestingly, she admitted to feeling some regret immediately after having her surgery in Seoul.

"I've never gone through childbirth so I don't know what that kind of pain is like, but I feel like that this is the most pain that I have ever experienced in my life," she said.

"I just feel like I sinned. I feel like I'm hearing God say, 'Sweetheart why would you do this? I made you perfect.' That's just the voice I kept hearing."

But several months down the road, she feels happy with her choice and says it has given her a "new outlook on life".

"I love it. I feel softer. I feel more feminine. I have more confidence," she said.

"I really believed that death would have been better during those first few days of recovery, but it was well worth it.

"It's really been a sort of reflection of what transformation has been going on in the inside of me, and a lot of that is because I feel physically more attractive, and there is value to that."

There is some discussion among Christians as to whether plastic surgery is wrong. Writing in the Christian Research Journal in 2010, reconstructive surgeon Richard J Poupard suggested Christians should be "discerning" and that in some circumstances, particularly medical, it could be justified.

"We should be careful if our motivations for surgery are principally to increase our self-esteem. The evidence shows the long-term effects of cosmetic surgery are not universally positive, and we should be esteemed not based on our own image, but the image of the God who created us and died for us," he cautioned.

"Second, we should consider whether our goal for surgery is to normalise our appearance or to enhance our bodies to approximate a perfect ideal. If cosmetic perfection to increase the attention others give us is our motivation, we may not be adhering to the principle of biblical modesty.

"Last, surgical enhancement supports the idea that our bodies are ours to modify without limit."

John Piper has also commented on the issue after confused Christians got in touch with him asking for some theological clarification.

Discussing the issue of physical beauty on his Desiring God website last October, the theologian and pastor said the best approach was to find the "middle way between idolising the body and neglecting the body".

He used 1 Corinthians 6:19 to offer five guiding principles to Christians in how they understand their relationship to the physical body:

  • God is in your body
  • God put God in your body
  • Your body does not belong to you
  • Your body was bought by the blood of Jesus
  • You exist in the body to make God look glorious

"It means use your body in a way that shows that your body is not your god, use your body in a way that shows your God is more precious than your body," he said.

"We need to give enough attention to our bodies so that we keep them fit for Christ and serviceable in his cause."

Piper also pointed people to 1 Peter 3.3-4 in which Peter teaches the church to make their adornments internal rather than external.

"I don't think Christians should be very impressed with our bodies ... Ninety-eight per cent of the people in the world look ordinary and if they don't look ordinary now they're going to look ordinary real soon," he said.

"They're going to get wrinkled, they're going to get old, and everything they worked for is going to go away. And the most voluptuous female body you have ever seen in your life is going to be ashen faced in a coffin before she knows it and then where will be all the investments in that temporary outward beauty?"

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