“Jimin is my ultimate idol and I’d do anything to meet him,” says BTS superfan Oli London, over the phone from London where he resides.
The 29-year old, who works in luxury retail, explained how he went under the knife more than 15 times and spent over $100,000 on his quest to look like Jimin. “He’s perfect and I wanted to look like him. He has beautiful, perfect symmetry and proportions and that cute face.” After years of aesthetic changes, Oli says he’s finally happy with how he looks.
“I really think I look more Korean now and I’m so happy and satisfied, it’s where I always wanted to be,” he tells Very Good Light.
Oli’s obsession with Korean aesthetics was immediate – and visceral, he explains. While teaching English in South Korea’s Jeju Island in 2012, he was transfixed at how beautiful Korea was. “I didn’t know anything about Korea before I went, but when I landed, it was like a utopia,” he recalls. The people, for one, were perfect. Their glass skin and skincare made their complexions glisten. Their features were like none he’s every seen before. But it was coming into contact with Kpop that would change his life.
He’d watched Korean pop shows and dramas after a full day of teaching, but it was one particular one that caught his eye. “BTS had a very different aesthetic than everyone else,” he recalls. “They were special and unique and came with this bad boy vibe. Of course I loved other Kpop artists but the way BTS was, I was obsessed. I wanted to be just like them. I wanted to look exactly like Jimin, my favorite.”
He’d start by altering his hair color to red. “But I was very self-conscious, that was a very big move for me back then,” he recalls. “I was so shy and insecure. I was so nervous I went back to the same salon and asked that they turn it back to brown.”
But it was going for a plastic surgery consultation that changed everything. It wasn’t as scary has he thought it would be. For one, the clinic was pristine. The front desk, welcoming. After meeting with the doctors and asking if they could alter his face to look like Jimin’s, he was sold. They’d start with something easy. A nose job. While Oli’s nose was a little flat, Jimin’s has a slight bridge. The procedure wouldn’t be so invasive.
The surgery was botched. His body had rejected implacts. The silicon was displaced and he’d need to get his nose redone. After his nose came his jaw, eye injections, and a whirlwind of traveling around the world for procedures. He’d gone to the UK for simple procedures, Armenia to get his breast tissue reduced and Poland because it was “cheaper and there’s medical tourism.” The latter he’d regret. He’d traveled for a nose-slimming surgery, but he’d come out with an even bigger nose. “It was so bad it left scarring.”
After traveling far and wide for procedures, Oli knew that South Korea had the best technology. It was there that he finally found doctors he could trust. There, they gave him eyelid fat injections to make more of a monolid, helped with his proportions, and more. “I’ve never been so satisfied with myself,” he says. “When I look at myself, I really look like Jimin!”
And when he travels around Seoul, he says others think the same. “Whenever I walk somewhere, there are people shouting ‘Jimin! Jimin!’ and really embracing me for my looks,” he says.
It’s also brought him notoriety. Since he’s announced his multiple surgeries, he’s become somewhat of a sensation. He’s also raised more than a few eyebrows recently when his story made international headlines. For one, Oli is caucasian, who’s been criticized for using his privilege to gain attention. Then there’s accusations of cultural appropriation and insensitivity when it comes to altering his aesthetics to become another race altogether.
“Cultural appreciation is when you have a strong interest in a culture and an active interest in it from hobbies, eating food, music,” he explains. “When you’re poking fun at a culture’s aesthetics, like a recent American rapper did when he said something along the lines of ‘I smoked and now I look Korean,’ that’s offensive. I’m not doing this in a way that’s offensive. I’m appreciating the Korean look just like Koreans appreciate the Western double eyelid.”
But whereas the double eyelid isn’t solely a western quality – there are many Korean people born naturally with those features – altering your nose or making your eyes more almond-shaped isn’t the same. It’s something that his many critics online and BTS’ fandom, ARMY, has been very vocal about. When Oli release his own Kpop-inspired music video called “Perfection,” the Internet vitriol came rolling in.
His video currently has over 391,000 views with 36,000 “thumbs down,” and 12,000 comments.
“DID LOVE YOURSELF MEAN NOTHING TO YOU?!” one commenter wrote, about BTS’ last album.
“He looks nothing like Jimin whatsoever,” another commented.
“This is cringey.”
Oli says that he’s read them but is unfazed.
“To be honest, it’s all unjustified hate,” he tells us. “I don’t worry about it and I ignore them. They’re teenage girls and look in the mirror and they’re depressed and take it out on other people. Just because I’m different they take issue. When a British person who’s wanted to do a Kpop song people are quick to hate and judge.” To him, his genuine devotion to Korea is real and isn’t just skin deep. “If only they understood where I was coming from, they’d get it,” he says.
So devoted, Oli says he’s willing to serve in South Korea’s military, mandatory for all men, for citizenship. He also hopes to become a cultural ambassador for South Korea’s medical and plastic surgery tourism. But ultimately, none of that matters. He wants to become Jimin.
“Success for me is when I meet BTS and Jimin,” he says. “I know that I can make happen for sure. I hope he’ll like me.”
For now, Oli’s working on his second Kpop single and hopes to relocate to Seoul sometime soon. “I feel most at home and accepted when I’m in Seoul,” he says. “In a past life I was definitely Korean. When you ask the universe what you want and it’s sincere, you’ll achieve it.”