Home Lifestyle I’m Not Good Enough: Body Image According to Korean Beauty Standards
I’m Not Good Enough: Body Image According to Korean Beauty Standards

I’m Not Good Enough: Body Image According to Korean Beauty Standards

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I’m pear-shaped and all the females in my family have wide hip bones, i.e. no matter what diet I follow or how many hours I spend exercising, I cannot have thin thighs that don’t touch. Well, that never bothered me. I never noticed my thighs were any bigger than other people, especially with all the women in my family looking the same. On the contrary, I had always thought pear-shaped women were sexy; until I drowned in K-drama and K-pop. Not only do girl bands consist of only super thin doll-like perfect women (that’s why it saddened me greatly what they did to SISTAR after starting with the healthy image). Not only does the male lead ALWAYS fall in love with the skinny female lead even if she was presented as not-so-beautiful (when she actually is). And in the few cases where the woman isn’t all that perfect, say Scent of a Woman or Oh My Venus, for example, she goes through a makeover that changes her into another supernatural beauty.

body image in korea

So what’s happening there? I’m a fan of K-drama, which means I cannot quench my thirst with young masculine oppas filling the screen, especially when my all-time favourite actor is veteran Kim Min Jong. Therefore, watching old dramas of the 90s and films of the 80s and 70s is a passion of mine. And if you’re anything like me, you must have noticed that Korean actors of the 90s were mostly dark-skinned. Yes, dark-skinned. Males and females alike were dark-skinned. Well, Choi Shi Ra has always had a pale skin, but Miss Korea Oh Hyun Kyung didn’t. What about now? In her latest work, The Gentlemen of Wolgyesu Tailor Shop, Oh Hyun Kyung was nothing dark. Her skin hasn’t looked dark in the past 15 years. And she isn’t the only one. Kim Min Jong, the aforementioned favourite actor of mine, suddenly woke up with a much lighter skin tone. So do Korean people change skin colour at a certain age? Of course not! What’s happening is that the perfect image of ‘’Korean’’ beauty consists firstly of flawless pale skin, that can only be achieved with thousands of dollars spent on makeup and dermatologist appointments. Watch any Korean show and notice how everyone has the same skin tone.

Kim Min Jong 1996 vs. 2012

Ah! I don’t apply foundation (BB cream)! Another reason why according to the Korean beauty standards, I must be ugly!

In addition to a pale skin, big eyes with double eyelids and a high nose are considered super beautiful (man I’m so pretty in these aspects). The number of Korean people (actors included) getting double eyelid surgeries is increasing rapidly. Nose jobs are also a trend. Yoo Eun Hye and Lee Sung Kyung are two actresses who had their eyelids done and Super Junior’s Leeteuk and SS501’s Kim Hyun Joong had their noses done. Everybody’s looking alike with the same nose and the same eyes. If you’re different, if you actually look Korean, you’re considered less beautiful, and in some cases, ugly!


Yoon Eun Hye before and after plastic surgery

Now let’s look at the bodies. There’s a very annoying but super popular JYP song titled Who’s Your Mama? that shamelessly specifies the beauty standards desired by men. 24-34-24 inch body measurements. A belly that doesn’t show fat whether the woman is sat down or not. And no matter how good-hearted a woman is, if she has fat, he doesn’t look at her. These are the literal lyrics! When I heard the song for the first time, I remembered an interview with star Lee Hyori in which she mentioned a letter she received by a fan that mentioned how the fan, a housewife, wanted to commit suicide because of her belly fat to which Hyori replied that she herself had belly fat and what appears on TV is half Photoshop, half crazy diet and exercise. Thanks JYP for being an advocate of self-confidence and loving oneself.

Check out the song here. Maybe leave comments if you like.

I was watching Bravo My Life the other day. There’s a very interesting character of an entertainment CEO played by a supporting actor I admire a lot called Kwon Oh Jung. This character falls in love with Lee Young Hee, played by talented actress Ha Jae Suk. As we all know, Ha Jae Suk is not on the thin side and that’s why the CEO is attracted to her. He even calls her ‘’glamorous’’. To which the second lead played by Kang Ji Sub replies, ‘’this is not glamorous. This is plain fat!’’

body image in korea

This conversation between the two characters summarises what the media is doing. Media is emphasising one image of beauty that tolerates no interpretations. If you do not fulfil that image to the letter, you’re not beautiful and therefore you don’t deserve to be loved. If you don’t look like Kim Tae Hee or Jun Ji Hyun, nobody is going to consider you. TV feeds you that message every single moment until you’re brainwashed into thinking this. I’m not Korean and I don’t live there and I’m still suffering from side effects of that body image, even though I consciously know what media is doing. Healthy bodies and lifestyles are great. That’s the life we all dream to have. But you can’t pigeonhole millions of women in one standard regardless of their body types, genes, environments, jobs, emotional states, etc… We are no robots. ( I Am No Robot is a great drama which has started recently. Check it out!

Park Chohwa

Park Chohwa

Writer at Koreanized
Living to write and writing to live. Literature is my magical world and languages keep my heart beating.
Park Chohwa

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Park Chohwa Living to write and writing to live. Literature is my magical world and languages keep my heart beating.