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Cut-throat competition

It is, thankfully, rare to hear teenagers using plastic surgery as an excuse not to hand in homework.

Polls may have shown that nearly half of under-18s in Britain would like to have surgery to improve their body image, but few plastic surgeons are willing to carry out cosmetic operations on that age group.

No such limits exist in South Korea. In the country becoming known as "the republic of plastic", the broadcaster MBC has reported record numbers of young people going under the knife. So many want operations - including increasingly boys - surgeons are going without sleep to keep up with demand from children as young as 12.

Many parents support it too, reasoning that any advantage is a help, and some view it as no worse than treating a bout of flu. Surgery is a common school graduation present.

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