Friday, March 20, 2009

Latest Issue of THE GLOBETROTTER

The GLOBETROTTER is an international news and current affairs newsletter. The investigative special reports and other features in the second issue of 2009 are originally investigated, reported, written, edited, and published by students of the Foreign Correspondence class, in conjunction with the Institute for International Journalism at Ohio University. Click here to access the newsletter.

International Correspondents & Datelines
(Class of 2009)

Jeff Bennett - BRAZIL
Carolin Biebrach - TURKEY
Natalie Cammarata - ITALY
Yilei Cheng - INDIA
Sally Cruikshank - QATAR
Aerin Curtis - ZIMBABWE
Kristin Eckert - BANGLADESH
Jung Lee - SOUTH KOREA
Cristina Mutchler - COLOMBIA
Ellen Schnier - UGANDA
Celia Shortt - CAMBODIA
Lu Tang - PERU
Michael Barajas - LEBANON
Jacqueline Best - FRANCE
Maria Fisher - KENYA
David Flores - REP. OF GEORGIA
Michael Hess - JORDAN
Natalie Jovonovich - SERBIA-MONTENEGRO
Meghan McNamara - CHILE
Taylor Mirfendereski - IRAN
Emily Mullin - SIERRA LEONE
Veronica Norton - D. R. CONGO
Gregory Stephens - RUSSIA

Monday, March 9, 2009

Interview with Jason Motlagh, International Journalist

Interview by Cristina Mutchler,
Institute for International Journalism


Jason Motlagh talks about his experiences as an international correspondent.

More from Jason Motlagh

Jason Motlagh is an international freelance journalist currently based in Washington D.C. He studied Foreign Affairs in college and upon graduating from his university spent time as a fisherman in Alaska. Journalism was a career that he later fell into. 

“At the time, it seemed like a chance where I could explore a lot of different fields and have access to a lot of different people and places,” Motlagh said. “It was a vehicle that would give me greater mobility to pursue things more in depth. That’s ultimately why I decided to pursue it.”

He got his start in the profession by securing journalism internships.

“I really just learned by doing. I was very rough in the beginning, but had easy access to seasoned professionals who I could learn from. There was a real immediacy when I was learning so I think that whole process was accelerated and I picked up the trade very quickly,” Motlagh said.

Motlagh has reported from about 35 countries. He started his career in West Africa and has extensively covered Central Asia and the Mideast. Over the past two years he has spent a significant amount of time covering the war on the ground in Afghanistan.

To hear from Motlagh about his experiences as a freelance journalist and to gain some advice about freelance and international reporting, watch the exclusive interview with him below.

video

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Giving Voice to the Oppressed


Edited by Lu Tang
by Ellen
Schnier

Photo Courtesy of Melbournegraffiti.com

Economic disparity is what drives people to want change. Those who have been oppressed by either the government or another group react most strongly when they are not able to put a roof over their families' heads or provide ample food. In covering stories involving such skirmishes, simply covering the issues of poverty, homelessness, and the hungry bring it to light. These types of stories rarely make it into the news, let alone the front page.

Reporting on the many people affected by war as individuals, as opposed to a general overview of the conflict, gives voice to the underrepresented. In any country, seeking out sources to fill in the gaps and contextualize the war provides readers with full information about the nature of the crisis. It is the details and personal stories that capture the interest of the public. If, for instance, a middle class American sits and reads about an international war in the newspaper, offered only the details of battle, he will not understand or be moved by the situations of the poor. It is a journalist's responsibility to raise awareness of the world's poor, especially those in Third World countries. The only way to tangibly improve the lives of those in dire poverty is through investigation and exposure, which would lead to action.

Throughout this course, I have become aware of the issues that exist in other countries. Through beat report presentations, I have learned so much about other nations--what their economic and cultural problems are, and story ideas to bring some of these issues to light. In addition, the videos we have watched and critiqued have given us a new sensitivity for working in such countries. Jim Nachtwey, for example, has made it his life's work to address the needs of the poor and has risked his life to tell the stories of the underrepresented. He serves as an example of finding the underlying story and not settling for the position of the government and the details of each crisis. He humanizes each story in hope of bringing changes in the system of economic inequality.

Though some of these stories may be out of line with the U.S. government's official foreign policy positions, the United States has a freedom of the press that allows for dissension. Because of that, journalists can enlighten those with uninformed, nationalist thinking, to help the world's poor. In the past, stories that bring to light tough issues, such as economic oppression, have led to reexamination around the world. In the future, we as journalists must continue this cultural and economic examination in support of those who cannot speak for themselves.

Important Stories for the World

Edited by Lu Tang
by Celia Shortt

Photo courtesy of Book For Third World

As a future international correspondent, the first way I would help make tangible improvements in the lives of the underrepresented people in whatever area I am in would be to represent that group accurately to my audience. The first step in change is making people aware of what needs to be changed. Audiences may not be aware of issues pertaining to certain groups. Knowing those issues can bring about the change that is needed. I have learned through this class that every person, no matter how poor, no matter the government’s interest or disinterest, has a story to tell. Each of those stories has the power to impact people all over the world. Just because a person or group of people is poor does not mean that what they are going through is not important. International correspondents should not let government’s interest or any other factors of that nature stop them from telling these stories.

Mission

Edited by Ellen Schnier

by Lu Tang

Photo courtesy of World Prout Assembly

The most powerful weapon journalists hold is communication. In order to make tangible improvements in the lives of the underrepresented people in the Third World, journalists should make full use of this tool —to bring information both into and out of the Third World. Give people in the Third World information that will help to develop their countries. At the same time, tell people in developed nations how those in the Third World are living. Draw attention to the Third World and gather elites around the world to work together to help address problems like poverty and inequality.

The more I learn, the more I feel that there aren’t black and white answers to covering global inequality. A journalist may not fully contextualize a topic like poverty because he is affected by his own nationality and background. It is a journalists’ mission, however, to promote the interests of or give a voice to the world’s poorest, even when those interests are not supported by official positions and nationalist thinking. This is one of the things that inspired me to become a journalist. It’s easy to idealize but hard to practice. If a global issue you want to cover is in opposition to your nation’s interests, you may be convicted to report it, but you may decline due to national pressure.

Conversely, just because it is in the interests of your country, it may not be in the interests of the news organization you serve. For instance, since some Third-World stories do not attract enough ad dollars and are therefore excluded from publication.

Covering such issues can be very dangerous as well. In August, 2008, a female journalism student in England was raped while trying to conduct an interview in a makeshift camp in Calais by immigrants attempting to reach Britain. This is a very extreme case, but it is important to be careful when investigating such stories. All these factors contribute to the difficulty in covering inequality in underdeveloped nations, but as journalists, it is our duty to persevere for the benefit of the global society.

Raising Awareness Where it is Needed

Edited by Ellen Schnier
by Sally Ann Cruikshank

Photo Courtesy of UNICEF

I believe that as international correspondents, or even as domestic journalists, it is important to raise awareness where it needs to be raised. I think the best way to do that is to give people who are not underrepresented or stricken with poverty tangible evidence that can put the situation into perspective. Take for example the Indonesian family in the documentary we watched who lived next to the railroad tracks. Just telling someone that a poor family lives next to the railroad tracks is not enough. Showing that image of the man with one arm and one leg with his small children sleeping next to oncoming trains, however, is powerful. It's an image that doesn't easily leave your mind. That kind of awareness can lead to change and improvements for the underrepresented.

I think in order to represent the world's poorest, you must first respect them. I believe that respect for others is the most important part of being a journalist. No matter what someone's situation in life is, he needs to be treated like a human being. As for U.S. interests, I believe that a journalist should leave those policies at the door as best as possible. A journalist's job is to bring injustices to light, no matter what country or government is behind them.

Underreported Issues and Regions

Edited by Ellen Schnier
by Kristin Eckert


As an international correspondent, the task should be to report on underreported issues and regions so that step by step with continuous coverage, awareness of problems and their causes is created among a larger (international) public. Studies have shown that public opinion can shape foreign policy.

Reporting about the economic and social conditions of poor people and creating a context on how they contribute to ethnic and religious conflict will demonstrate to the public how seemingly unrelated issues are connected. By exposing these links and keeping the topic alive in the media, a public debate can create pressure resulting in action by a (foreign) government, NGO, or even individuals to help. The role of the international journalist is to find and cover underreported issues and regions, to investigate the underlying causes of conflicts, and to report continuously to raise public (international) awareness.

Reporting about the hopes and concerns of Bangladeshis for their new government has shown me that their concerns are very basic: peace, better Internet, lower food prices, more investment into education, and freedom of speech. The mission of the U.S. government to Bangladesh concentrates on stability, democracy, and denying space to terrorists. Only one person in my survey among six Bangladeshis mentioned terrorism as a concern, however, all talked about food and freedom of speech. It is important to listen to citizens and experts who have different interests than the U.S. government or their own country's administration.

Apart from this discrepancy, ethnicity and religion are often not contained within national or geographic boundaries. Because of that, governments can only represent a geographically defined country and maybe a nation. Not every nationality, ethnicity, or religion that lives in their territory, however, is represented by an administration. This also applies to gender in some cases. As an international journalist, it is crucial to speak to groups who represent different identities that reflect the make up of a region in addition to government sources to give a more authentic picture of a (power) struggle.

Photo courtesy of Voice of Bangladesh

How Foreign Correspondents Can Help the War Against Poverty?


Edited by Celia Shortt
Picture by Jonathan McIntosh, Creative Common
s
Give a Voice to the Voiceless
In Third World countries, people do not have a way to speak. They are powerless. Foreign correspondents can give them a voice to the world.
- Jacqueline Best

In some cases of the work of journalists has generated donations from readers and has inspired campaigns to redress the situation. To me, giving a a voice to the voiceless is one of the primary ethical concerns of journalists. - Meghan McNamara

Reporting is about doing the right thing, being a voice for those who do not have one, and bringing to light the flaws of the government. To accomplish these things, however, reporters have to be extremely cautious and cunning. - Veronica Norton

Accurate Representation and Awareness
As a foreign correspondent, you have an advantage, as you have an opportunity to immerse yourself in one's lifestyle and really observe the conditions in which they live.
- Taylor Mirfendereski

Spreading awareness and giving voices to the voiceless are probably the most important things you can do as a journalist. You create an outlet of communication from that person's life to the outside world. - Emily Mullin

Equip the Global Audience
It is our job to inform people about relevant social issues and allow the audience to make decisions regarding how to improve these problems. - David Flores

International journalists have to tread carefully on topics, but it is important that they stand their ground. There are duties to be fulfilled by these journalists and responsibilities to the global community which produce news that essentially shapes the world in which we live.
- Halle Tansing

We, as foreign correspondents, are not just writing for the American public. We are writing for a global audience. Even if your story does not get published in a large publication, there are hundred of other publications in countries that can make a difference. - Michael Hess

Bringing a Voice to the Third World


Edited by Celia Shortt
Picture by Jonathan McIntosh, Creative Commons

To bring a voice to those in need in Third World countries can mean different things to different people. Journalists weigh and discuss different options on how to best bring that voice to the people:

Observe them for a few days, ask questions about how they get by, how they feed their family or make a living. People must connect to stories that touch their hearts. If you can humanize an issue, it will make more people aware of a prominent issue, like poverty. - Emily Mullin

Newspapers do not tell people what to think. They tell the public what to think about. Anyone who has been to a developing country knows the feeling of walking through the streets of its poorest regions and feel that guilt that you are living so well - even as a college student - while these people are living in squalor. That type of feeling sticks with you. That is the feeling you want to stick with your readers. - Michael Hess

As correspondents, we cannot change the world directly, per say; but in time, the people who read our stories and see our images can. - David Flores

Third World countries which are seldom given a voice to express their concerns and injustices deserve journalists who are willing to stray from media norms. I believe there is an opportunity to return to the bold, investigative journalism that has been missing for quite some time.
- Halle Tansing

Giving voice to the voiceless and allowing their story to be told can have a lasting impact. In providing voice to the world's poorest, a reporter much handle everything with forethought and strategy. - Veronica Norton

Externalization and Global Voice

Edited by Lu Tang
by Lacey Curtis
Photo by Fayaz Kabli/Reuters
Kashmir Protest

The job of an international correspondent is often seen as one that covers crisis situations. Much of the time these crises are violent. Yet, an important part of it is documenting those that are not. These situations have continued because no one has reported them. Only by informing the public will they stop being ‘externalized.’ Engaging with the people in these situations and helping them to tell their individual stories to the world can end the externalization. As an international correspondent we have a global audience, or at least multi-continent audience, we have to bring these issues to that widely disseminated group of people so that the issues would not be overlooked. Then it also becomes harder for the countries in which these issues happen to hide the situations.

Can an international journalist really consider herself to be a citizen of one nation? I think that if we are attempting to cover any country then it is a mistake to tie yourself heavily to the politics of a single country. What the U.S. government does is often grounded in politics, but not in public interest, and that should not dictate my coverage of a subject. In this course I have seen further evidence that violence is a weapon most often employed by those who have, or think they have, little else. As the man in the video about the conflict in Northern India suggested-- they had started out as peaceful protesters and thinking they had gotten nowhere they became violent. By giving a voice and by pointing out the economic inequalities, these problems can be addressed and, hopefully, alleviated. Not covering them only perpetuates the cycle of violence.

The Battle Against World Poverty

Edited by Celia Shortt
Photo by Creative Commons
Change from Within
Change needs to come from within a country. I could report on the problems and expose them to the outside world. Doing this could cause global leaders and other countries to pressure Third World countries to reduce inequalities. This truly can only go so far until the country itself and from within decides it needs to make the change.
- Jacqueline Best

Root of the Issue
Poverty is undoubtably an under covered issue in the media despite its global pervasiveness. It's important to get to the root of the issue. Reporters should seek out the underlying social instability that is fueling the conflict. - Meghan McNamara

Self-Awareness
Before you can tell other people about the conditions that people in the Third World live, you have to understand them yourself. I would not cover a underrepresented population until I fully had a grasp of their lifestyle and the challenges they are presented with. Spending time with a population to explore their day to day lives is a great way to accurately represent the voices of the people you are covering. - Taylor Mirfendereski

Heal the Problem, Not the Symptoms


Edited by Lu Tang
by Carolin Biebrach

Photo by Ruth Fremson/ New York Times

As a foreign correspondent or as a journalist in general, you have the opportunity to report on issues nobody else is reporting on. Exactly with this kind of behavior, you're giving the underrepresented people a voice and accordingly increase the public awareness of problems. So the best way to deal with underrepresented issues is to go out and start talking about it. That is the great chance for collecting valuable stories, but also the responsibility journalists have.

Besides, just like Ellen said, there are always some reasons for a crisis. Rather than focusing on violence and war, find the reasons for that. Try to heal the problem, not the symptoms.

Especially now, when we're dealing with a so-called economic crisis, people are aware of the problems their families could face. Now it is the time to make them aware of the great life they are still living-- that there are people, who fight every day to survive all over the world.

In this class, I learned a lot about the United States and the "rest of the world". In discussions, I got an impression of the "American point of view": how they see themselves, what they are worried about, and how they think of others.


Additionally, mostly through the special reports, I got a sense of the issues other countries are dealing with. It gave me a better understanding of the international issues that journalists have to consider when reporting about other countries.

Covering Poverty and Inequality

Edited by Lu Tang

by Jung Lee

Photo courtesy of AANGIRFAN Blog

Firstly, it is journalists’ responsibility to let the underrepresented people to have a voice in the media. I believe that “making comparison and contrast” is one of the powerful techniques when presenting such stories. For example, a story about some poor kids who are having trouble to buy meal plan is pretty eye-catching. But, the story would be better if the life of some private boarding school kids in the same area is presented in the same story.

Secondly, throughout the course, we have discussed a lot of problems that other countries are facing and some issues foreign correspondents are going to deal with in the future. I believe that the media should empower the poor countries with more voices. As for the national interests, I believe that journalists should cover what they consider important; protecting national interests is not a reporter’s job.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Dispersing Information and Tenacity

Edited by Ellen Schnier

by Jeff Bennett
Photo courtesy of USC School of Medicine
Boy effected by Chagas Disease

Interestingly, in my pursuit of a career in journalism, I want to help improve the plight of the impoverished in Latin America. Therefore, I have contemplated what I would personally do to improve the lives of people in the Third World before.

Journalists can use the power of communication to bring awareness to an issue in which many people were previously oblivious to. For example, investigating and reporting instances where a region lacks potable water, sewage drainage or where infectious diseases are commonly spread through insects can help governmental and non-profit organizations assemble the proper knowledge and manpower to help those in need. Often those who can help simply need the information that journalists are able to discover through their investigation of impoverished areas.

The spread of information is vital for those affected by poverty. In Ecuador, a potentially fatal illness called the Chagas disease is spread by insect bites but is easily prevented by building a brick house with proper window seals instead of an adobe home. In the span of 10 years, almost 25 percent of the illness has been reduced in particular coastal and Amazonic regions among the nation’s poor simply because they are now aware of how to stop the bugs from entering their homes. Stopping the spread of Chagas is a big initiative, and journalists have played a crucial role by informing the citizens about how to protect themselves from the bugs. This is exactly how journalists can play a role in the lives of those underrepresented in the Third World.

I personally believe the most important role a journalist can perform in helping to stop poverty is bringing it to attention.

I’ve always believed in trying to represent those in dire need, but this course has taught me the tenacity and relentlessness necessary to make a difference. As for helping people in nations that U.S. policy disagrees with, call me naïve, but I believe grassroots organizations, non-profits, NGOs and benevolence exists to help those people. Politics too often comes between helping those who truly in need and actual assistance. This was obvious when the United States gave nearly a billion dollars and weapons to Afghanistan in the 1980s to stop the spread of Russia, but failed to give even one million dollars to rebuild the schools and infrastructure of the destroyed nation. Today, giving money to Afghanistan to rebuild its nation is still considered a faux pas but is necessary to aid those subjected to poverty and cruelty by a repressive regime. Overall, politics should not play a factor in who receives aid, and journalists must be tenacious enough to realize this.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Helping to Resolve Issues


Edited by Ellen Schnier
by Cristina Mutchler

Photo courtesy of Pap Blog

For any improvements to be made in the lives of underrepresented and impoverished people in Third World countries, we as journalists hold the key through communication. Jason Motlagh showed us how we as young international journalists can help shed light on some of these global issues. Many people in the United States do not have any knowledge or understanding of the tensions and crises that occur in Third World countries. I was even unaware of the intensity of the economic, religious, and ethnic tensions in India prior to our class discussion. On this issue, I would report on economic inequality and why it exists, perhaps focusing on the inherent disparity in the caste system. I would demonstrate how the unequal distribution of wealth contributes to social unrest. By reporting on such inequality, I hope to reach the attention of policy makers in Western countries in order to open a dialog about how to increase the stability of developing nations, such as India, and how that will effect the rest of the world. By exposing such issues through the news media, I hope to put pressure on the governments of Third World nations to reach out to the poor and oppressed.

Throughout the course, we discussed many issues relating to the crises and tensions throughout the world and the importance of international journalists in reporting these conflicts. Knowledge is power. The poor in Third World countries need power and by bringing such issues out into the open, it could force governments in other countries to alleviate their condition. Even after addressing such issues, however, some government intervention fails. American intervention in Iraq, for example, failed to implement change. In class, we have learned that journalists must not parrot the government position but must report honestly and accurately so that we can work together to shed light on the critical issues worldwide and help resolve them.

Giving Voice to the Oppressed

Edited by Ellen Schnier
By Ellen Schnier

Economic disparity is what drives people to demand change, often through violence. Those who have been oppressed by either their government or another religious or cultural group react most strongly when they are not able to put a roof over their families' heads or provide ample food. In reporting stories involving such skirmishes, simply covering the issues of poverty, homelessness, and the hungry brings them to light. These stories rarely make it into the news, let alone the front page.
Photo courtesy of Wildwood Outreach Gazette

Reporting about the many people affected by war as individuals, as opposed to a general overview of the conflict, gives voice to the underrepresented. In any country, seeking out sources to fill in the gaps and contextualize the war provides readers with full information about the nature of the crisis. It is a journalist's responsibility to raise awareness of the world's poor, especially in Third World countries. The only way to tangibly improve the lives of those in dire poverty is through investigation and exposure, which leads to action.

Throughout this course, I have become aware of the economic and cultural problems that exist in other countries. In addition, the videos we have watched and critiqued have given me a new sensitivity for working in such countries. Jim Nachtwey, for example, has made it his life's work to address the needs of the poor and has risked his life to tell the stories of the underrepresented. He serves as an example of finding the underlying story and not settling for the position of the government and the details of each crisis. He humanizes each story in order to affect change in the system of economic inequality.

Though some of these stories may be out of line with the U.S. government's official foreign policy positions, the United States has a freedom of the press that allows for dissension. Because of that, journalists can enlighten those with uninformed, nationalist thinking, to help the world's poor. In the future, we as journalists must continue this cultural and economic examination in support of those who cannot speak for themselves.

Peru’s New Year Resolution: Get Our Inca Antique Back


By Lu Tang
Picture: Peru Machu Picchu Sunrise
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Many big museums in United States, Britain, France and etc. are facing pressure from countries with ancient civilizations like Greece and Italy to return ancient artwork and other cultural artifacts. The question of who owns cultural objects is not unique to the dispute between Yale University and Peru. Peru is now demanding for the return all their treasures Yale University.

Nearly 100 years ago, Yale Professor Hiram Bingham rediscovered the ancient Inca city of Machu Picchu between 1912 and 1915, now the most famous tourist attraction in Peru, and the more than 4,000 artifacts were excavated. Over the course of those digs, Bingham shipped crates of artifacts back to Yale University in Connecticut, where the collection has remained to this day.

"This is our patrimony. This is everything to us - proof that even though today we are poor, our ancestors lived great and proud," David Ugarte of Peru's National Culture Center told USA Today in 2006. "Bingham said he was going to study those pieces and give them back. It was clear to all they were to be returned."

Yale disagreed, arguing that it kept only those objects that it fully owned after returning any loaned objects in the 1920s.

Peru and Yale reached an agreement in September 2008 that Yale would return the antifacts housed in Yale's Peabody Museum, but it fell through over a dispute over how many artifacts were to be returned.

The Peruvian government believes that there are some 40, 000 pieces of Machu Picchu objects left at Yale, but Yale’s estimate is around 4.000 pieces.

“I think Yale should follow what the law says, which is that these
artifacts are from Peru and belong to Peru and their voluntary return from Yale
should happen immediately,” Aldo Gabriel Soraluz Luzquiños, a Peruvian student commented.

How would the American public react if we took thousands of Civil War artifacts with the idea to study them and then say that if you want them back in a hundred years we’ll return them then?”

In November 2008, it is reported that Peru plans to sue Yale University. Peru officials have threatened to sue in the past, but never did.

"It is, of course, disappointing, since we had a positive informal meeting with the foreign minister, and have expected to have further discussions," Yale Spokesman Thomas Conroy said, “Yale has stated in the past that it will defend any lawsuit.”

A recent New York Times column of Peru’s former first lady criticizing the negotiation even further clouds the situation.

According to Yale Daily News, Eliana Karp de Toledo, Peru’s former first lady, accused Yale of an “arrogant and neo-colonial manner towards the sovereign nation of Peru” and she denounced that the negotiations were not transparent and open enough.

Yale University responded that the points made by Karp de Toledo-- whose husband Alejandro Toledo will be eligible to seek Peru’s highest office again in 2011-- was not valid and questioned her motives.

It seems that the possibility of a legal action is increasing.

“If these negotiations break down,” Richard L. Burger, director of the Yale Peabody Museum said, “we may find ourselves in court. And Yale would do well in a trial.”

“The diplomatic negotiation with Yale University did not work. Peru has to sue Yale University. I am convinced that we have sufficient proof to win in court,” Rocio Perez, a Peruvian citizen said. “Our Peruvian legal rules and international regulations are going to help us to win in court.”

Korean plastic surgery clinics trying to lure more international patients

By Jung Lee
The once crowded waiting rooms in plastic surgery clinics are empty. Twenty out of Eighty clinics in the Beauty Town have been closed since the economic downturn last year. The rest are struggling with new business strategies to survive.

The plastic surgery industry took off after South Korea recovered from the 1997 economic crisis. As Koreans got wealthier, pursuing beauty became one of the priorities on their to-do list. Plastic surgery is very popular in South Korea. Even the former President Roh Moo-hyun underwent a double eyelid procedure in 2005.

“More than half of my girl friends in college had undergone some kind of plastic surgery. Nose jobs and double eyelids surgeries are most popular ones,” said Alice Park, a 22-year-old student. “Cosmetic surgery is no secret here.”

Parents would take their high school senior children for plastic surgery as a graduation gift. Making their children more pretty is as important as sending them into top schools. “Whatever it takes to get ahead, it worth a try, especially in such a highly competitive society,” said Han-Seok Ko, who took his 21-year-old daughter for a nose job last year. “Looks are really important.”

Plastic surgery is the number one winter break activity for high school graduates because they are going into college or preparing for job interviews. A large percentage of Koreans believe that good looks mean greater opportunities. “I think parents support their children to do plastic surgery because beauty is very important for getting a decent job or finding a good husband,” said Jungshan Sea, a 24-year-old Korean.

Yeonbae Jung, a plastic surgeon in Seoul, suggested on his clinic’s website that people with a better personal image are more efficient in their jobs. “A cosmetic surgery can boost your personal confidence.”

The plastic surgery industry in South Korea is certainly not immune from the economy facing particularly unsettled times. According to ARA Marking and Education, a consulting company based in Seoul that specialized in the cosmetic surgery industry, the number of customers has plummeted 40% since last September.

Since poor economy sharply cut the demand of plastic surgery, the South Korea government is trying to help clinics stay in business. The Seoul Metropolitan government is planning to launch a project of building an international medical institution complex for luring more foreign patients. The project emphasizes plastic surgery and there would have multilingual counseling staff for international patient service. The government knows these medical tourists will not only bring money for clinics but also help the economy by shopping and sightseeing.

In the meantime, some larger clinics tried to find their own way out. According to Seoul plastic surgery association journal, more than 20 South Korean plastic surgery clinics have set up branches in Shanghai, China. Some other companies are setting up English version website in order to lure U.S customers and Korean Americans.

South Korean Won was one of the worst performing currencies last year due to major stocks and bonds sell-offs following the bleak economic forecast . Won depreciated by 50% against the U.S. dollar. A double eyelid surgery costs around $900, while the average cost of the same surgery is around $3,800 in California.

Clinics expect more patients from the United States, especially Korean Americans. “We hope more and more patients will be attracted by the high quality of Korean surgeons,” BK Dong Yang Plastic Surgery hospital spokesman Lee Mi-Kyung said in an interview with The Korean Times.