Two Eyes in the Mirror Discusses Beauty in Korea, Part 4: Thin Is In.

21 Apr

This is the fourth in a series of five guest posts by the delightful Ashley from Two Eyes in the Mirror, discussing Beauty in Korea. Different phenomenons, crazes, stats and the beauty dictatorship. You can see a list of contents in the introduction post. Come back tomorrow for part five!

Im Ji Hye: 49kg (108 lbs) @ 172cm (5’5″) 1

Hwang Mi Hee: 51kg (112 lbs) @ 174cm (5’7″) 2

Kang Seung-hyun was the first Asian winner of the Ford Supermodel of the World contest held in 2008. She is 178cm (5’10”) and weighs 51kg (112 lbs). 3

What do all of these girls have in common besides being Korean models? They’re all technically underweight, with B.M.I.’s ranging from 16.1-16.8 (anything under 18.5 is considered underweight). Of course, you might expect this of supermodels, but the thin trend extends into the general Korean public, too.

The “Lines”
Korea has invented terms that refer to the ideal body/face “line.” As mentioned previously, the desired “V-line” is a slim face that tapers down to a point at the chin. There are even face rollers designed to help transform one’s face into a V-line face (some Koreans swear by them, although experts say they don’t have any effect on the face).

Lee Seung Gi rolls his face on a television program. 4

Women want the ideal “S-line” body shape, which refers to how a woman’s body may look if viewed from the side: ample bust and butt but a very slim waist (think of the much-desired “Hourglass figure” in western culture). There’s also the dreaded D-line (a fat belly) and B-line (big bust and big abdomen), along with a host of other terms. Check this out for more information!

An advertisement for an “S-line” body shape. 5

Eating Disorders & Extreme Weight Loss
Eating disorders are on the rise in Asia. While people are starving from famine in North Korea, South Koreans are purposely not eating because thin is in. Liposuction surgeons have popped up in the capital, and diet pills, cellulite creams, and weight loss teas are becoming increasingly popular. 6 In the past, Koreans went to obesity clinics because they were, in fact, obese, and wanted to eliminate fat for health reasons. These days, more and more young people are going to these clinics wishing to get rid of the fat along their chest, back, thigh, and buttocks so they can look more stylish in their clothing. 7. Some clinics agree to perform surgeries on people of normal weight in order to collect insurance reimbursements. 7

For people who want to be stylish, being thin isn’t just a desire, it’s a necessity. A lot of fashionable Korean clothing only comes in one or two sizes–roughly extra, extra small and extra small–around the equivalent to American sizes 0, 2, and 4. 8 Many “foreigners” have a difficult time finding clothing in Korea that fits them because of the sizing. In fact, these trousers are a size extra, extra-large.

From what you’ve read here, who do you think is more concerned with appearance: South Korea or the “western world”? Would you ever consider weight-loss surgery if you were not obese?


2 Responses to “Two Eyes in the Mirror Discusses Beauty in Korea, Part 4: Thin Is In.”

  1. Charlotte- University of Birmingham April 21, 2011 at 1:13 pm #

    wow, i thought body image was an issue in the west, but wow.
    i can’t believe how underweight some of these girls are!! it makes me feel sick (and kinda fat) that one of them is the same height as me but weighs nearly 20 pounds less than me!!
    Great series, Ashley. I’m definitely learning a lot!!


    • Ashley April 21, 2011 at 7:39 pm #

      Glad you’re learning from these, Charlotte, and thanks for your input! And yes, I understand…I’m inches shorter than all of these girls AND I weigh about 20lbs more than them, too. I think I’m a B-line, hehe.

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