Korean Ideas of Beauty

Posted on August 11, 2010


If you’ve been reading my posts from this series “Korean Ideas of Beauty” (you can read past posts HERE), I’m hoping that you may have gained some insight into the current trends in modern Korean beauty culture; I thought it would be fitting for me to write my final post of this series with contents that matches the overall title of this whole series “Korean Ideas of Beauty.” To be more specific, to tie in with my trip to Seoul (which inspired me to start writing these series of posts), I’d like to write a bit about some expectations  I have for what I think I’ll experience during my trip to Seoul in relation to these ideas of beauty I’ve written about in my past posts.

To be fair, my past posts have all been searched out and based on articles you can freely find on the Internet, from Korean Television programmes and  other similar types of  media outlets, rather than through personal experience and so I am particularly interested in seeing if  these media’s portrayals of  South Korean’s  views  on beauty are a true reflection of their society’s beliefs or just media hype!

You’ve gotta be whiter!

Han Ga In

You watch these videos online- the latest K-Drama, K-Pop vid et al- and there seems to be a blue-print that Korean women must fulfill in terms of their looks; high bridged nose (check), aegyo-sal (check), big eyes (check) and finally, white, white, white skin (definite check!). I wrote about this topic in the past, with the thought that a lot of Korean ideas of beauty seems to be working towards creating a more ‘westernized’ look but not so much a westernized culture and one of the most noticeable, key aspect of this is to have really white skin. I could argue that Korean women naturally have whiter than-your-average-Asian skin because they have longer Winter’s and are less exposed to the sun, but on the other hand I could also point out that in the height of Summer, when the sun probably shines more than it would in my home town of London,  Korean Women purposely slather on lots of SPF and keep out of the sun. Whilst I’m no stranger to this behavior (in my Vietnamese motherland, women are the same), and actually like the impression of purity that having a whiter, smoother complexion gives, I’m worried about how this might effect my impending trip to Seoul!

Call me foolish but the honest truth is that I feel things work out a bit like this: Korean Beauty=White skin= Aura of a modern day Princess, however, Dark/Tanned skin=Farmer’s daughter. Whilst I don’t care about being viewed of as a ‘farmer’s daughter’ (who cares about status?), I do worry about the fact that, because I may be slightly more tanned than your average Korean I might be immediately ostracized  and treated even more prejudicely as a ‘foreigner’ than I expect to be because, yes, sadly, Koreans are still quite racist to other Asian nations! But hey, I’ll let the language barrier become a positive thing and if I do experience any racism (which I’m no stranger to) I can just say to myself that the Korean words I’m hearing are words of praise ^^

Mama Bear is Skinny (엄마곰은 날씬해)

Full House

I haven’t watched the K-Drama “Full House” (scandalous I know), but the fame of having K-Pop star, Rain/Bi, singing this “3 Bears” song means I’ve at least heard of it! So, yeah, Mama Bear is skinny right? Aish, this image of having to be skinny,that women need to be skinny in order to fit into society or to be viewed as ‘beautiful’ is an ongoing concern in Western Society and, more so (I feel) in K-Culture! In this Western world, my UK size 8-10 body might be viewed as skinny but in K-Culture, with the absence of a Goo-Hara-esque 21-inch west and forty something KG weight, I might be viewed as overweight? if not overweight then not perfectly slim? What’s up with that?

Huh? Belly Fat eh? I say NORMAL

Also, it doesn’t help when celebrities like UEE from After School decide to ‘prove’ that they don’t have belly fat, rather then saying “Yeah I do, so what? It’s normal because I eat!” (as always, you can read about these things HERE from The Grand Narrative’s blog). The downer for me on this one, is not because I worry I’ll be deemed ‘fat,’ (I’ve confidently found that such insecurities slowly fade with age), but that if I am considered fat then Korean clothes might not fit me!  :((( big grrr, as I want to really SPLURGE during my holiday.

Language Barrier= Awkward Sauna moment!

Yes! Please let me spend some time in a Korean sauna, my UK, student budget type of life means I can’t splurge on such luxuries at home, but maybe, just maybe, I can throw caution to the wind and go to a Korean Sauna and leave feeling a bit more…beautiful? But, my biggest worry with this one is that I hope I don’t end up being a victim to my inability to speak or read Korean, and end up stepping into a Korean sauna where I’m expected to strip starkers and get a scrub down. I’ve read too many stories about this one, like HERE, but dammit, these bloggers don’t mind getting nude and sometimes even hunt down such places- me… not so much!

All those bloody lines!

Yeah, I'm one of those marketing fools!

Remember my 1st post in this series? HERE, where I spoke about Korean types of body/face lines! Well, hmm, I have said that one’s body insecurities slowly becomes insignificant as you grow older, but there is one thing that I can’t shy away from when it comes to my body- bloody marketing! I am a fool for advertising and even if I don’t feel the need to work towards having a V-Line face or an awesome X-Line body, I may become obsessed if the right product comes along, and even more so if it’s advertising is as equally awesome. Bummer 😦

So, I don’t think I want a V-Line face but have bought one of those face slimming/roller thingamabobs  (picture of that above) to achieve one, and all because I liked the ‘idea’ of what it could do. So, for my trip to Seoul, I’m worried that in a land obsessed with many different ways to make you ‘beautiful,’ I’ll fall victim to all that glitzy advertising and end up buying loads of crap, rather then loads of clothes as I originally want to but probably can’t.

To end my last post of this series I write all of this in jest because, whilst I might really feel worried about these expectations I have for my trip to Seoul, I am equally as amused that such insecure expectations exist because in the wider world, these problems are minute! Overall, I hope that you’ve enjoyed my “Korean ideas of beauty” series, and that by knowing a  bit more about Korean beauty standards (whatever you may want to call it), you can understand a bit more about that culture, but that you won’t feel pressured into becoming a perfect e-fit to those standards or any other standards that different cultures might expect of you! I mean, for me personally, just learning about these Korean beauty standards has been a laugh because of how absurd some expectations are! So, yeah, have a laugh with it all- any body insecurities you may have will fade with age, and you don’t want to look back on your past thinking that you’ve wasted so many years worrying about the insignificant eh?

Much Cookie Love 🙂

Source: Grand Narrative, Grrrl Traveller,