Smile surgery is the Joker in the pack
Earlier this year Thai people were told the bad news that our country had lost its long-held status as the world's top rice exporter, falling behind India and Vietnam. As if that's not sad enough, it is likely that soon Thailand might also have to give up its cherished nickname "the Land of Smiles" to guess who... South Korea.
With corruption virtually everywhere, Thais nowadays have fewer and fewer reasons to smile. Meanwhile, in South Korea an increasing number of people are promised the ability to smile all day long, each and every single day, thanks to a surgical innovation called Smile Lipt.
Allow me to help you figure out the meaning of this strange name. The first word, of course, is straightforward. The second, which spellcheck obviously has an issue with, is a marriage between "lip" and "lift". It refers to a cosmetic surgery procedure that stirred up controversy on the internet over the past few days when a photograph of a young lady whose lips look like those of The Joker was posted on the Reddit website.
It was claimed she is South Korean and had gone under the knife to have the corners of her lips lifted to create the impression that she is always smiling.
Anyway, whether the photo was real or fake might be arguable, but for sure such an operation does exist in South Korea, which is no surprise given that the country is a global hot spot for plastic surgery.
Actually the Smile Lipt technique is not really that new. It was introduced by a South Korean clinic quite a while ago. The idea and procedure is explained in a video uploaded on YouTube on May 19 last year, and has since been watched almost 107,000 times.
The 12-minute clip starts with how much the look of the corners of your lips mean to people around you and yourself.
Then it goes on to explain that undesirable downward mouth corners cannot be fixed by just removing the skin because sooner or later the problem will come back. "There are muscles that pull the mouth corners in three different directions. People with sagging mouth corners have strong muscles that pull the mouth corners sideways and downwards, so this muscle must be cut in order to reduce its strength," the narrator, probably Korean, says.
Therefore weakening the muscle that pulls down the mouth corners and strengthening those that lift them up is the "important principle" of the clinic's mouth-corner lift.
Yes, that's how Smile Lipt works.
The video also tries to convince viewers that the surgery gives the patient the advantage of having a "smiling impression without actually smiling".
Cool or creepy? What do you think?
The following headlines from online reports on the issue may reflect how the Western media see it:
- "Smile Lipt: A Cure for Bitch Face?" (Allure.com)
- "'Smile Lipt' surgery promises to make you smile even if you don't want to" (en.rocketnews24.com)
- "'Joker Lips' surgery in South Korea creates perma smile" (abcnews.go.com)
- "The latest breakthrough in South Korean plastic surgery is just plain terrifying" (qz.com)
- "The rise of the creepy perma-smile: Disturbing new surgery trend creates Joker-style grins for South Korean women" (Dailymail.co.uk)
Obviously, they don't sound so positive. Then again, South Korea is not the only country in the world where there are people who are not happy about the look of their lips and doctors who are eager to cater to those who can afford to pay for the fix. And the remedies on offer range from bloody operations to dermal filler injections, among others. Simply search on Google or YouTube with words such as "lip enhancement", "lip lowering" or "lip repositioning" if you need proof.
Let's get back to that controversial photo on Reddit. Suppose it was real, the Joker girl might have been a victim of over-correction, one of the many side effects that usually comes with cosmetic surgery no matter where it was done: South Korea, Thailand, Europe, the US or anywhere in the universe.
Personally, I don't object to the practice. It can improve a person's appearance as long as it doesn't go wrong. The Smile Lipt, for instance, could be life-changing for people who are sure they really, actually and definitely need it, people who often feel it takes an effort to wear a smile on their faces, people like Thai taxpayers.
Perhaps, it will also guarantee that our country will not see its nickname being snatched away.
Pongpet Mekloy is Life' s travel editor.
Pongpet Mekloy is the Bangkok Post's travel editor and a mountain bike freak.