Two Eyes in the Mirror Discusses Beauty in Korea, Part 5: Discussion and Conclusion

22 Apr

This is the fifth 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. What do you think? 

Beauty in Korea: Discussion and Conclusion

 Our Beauty in Korea series has covered many things. We’ve learned about skin lightening, double eyelid creases, thinness, and small faces. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Koreans regularly undergo more surgeries which we haven’t discussed here, including rhinoplasty, breast augmentation, calf reduction surgery, and forehead augmentation. It is hard to understand why Korea is so wrapped up in physical appearances unless one has experienced it firsthand. Both Amy and myself attempted to talk to Koreans, Korean immigrants, and Korean Americans to get their perspectives.

Why? To Appear More Western.
One Korean woman Amy spoke with, who had double eyelid surgery when she was much younger, said she, “understands why many women have surgery or use various techniques to try and look more ‘Western’–it’s no wonder considering what a global superpower America is.” She recognizes, however, that not all people think like this, and many are not trying to look “not Korean.”

A “Foreigner” in Korea
As a Caucasian Westerner in South Korea, Amy finds herself having difficulty fitting into clothing, mainly because of her larger chest. She finds many people comment on her chest, using shocked, yet complimenting voices. Her students are envious of her “‘glamorous’ body, curly hair, long eyelashes, small face, and big eyes.” When told that they, along with all their Korean features, are beautiful, they reply with, “Yes, maybe we are beautiful, but you are more beautiful.”

Why? …What?
One Korean woman, who immigrated to the United States in the 1970s, had no idea what I meant when asked about the cultural standards of beauty in Korea. She did acknowledge that some of her relatives have undergone surgical procedures in Korea, supposedly because it is cheap there. At first I was a bit shocked: how could she not know about the emphasis on beauty in Korea?! But, after thinking about it, it makes sense: she left Korea in the 70s. Plastic surgery was unheard of for the common Korean. Even beauty pageant queens looked different, according to one article. 1 From this, we can understand that beauty standards have changed quite recently.

Why? What Others Say
There is high speculation among everyone whether Koreans change their appearance to become more Westernized or if they do it for some other reason. Some credit it to Korea’s conformist nature: Korean citizens see that the most successful people in the world are thin, have double eyelids, etc. They watch their celebrities go in for cosmetic surgery and come out looking more “beautiful.” So, naturally they want to do it too. 2

Of course, there is no way to determine the real cause of Korea’s fixation with physical appearance. Korean citizens and outsiders may have their opinions, but in the end, they are merely speculations. So, what do you think? Why is Korea so obsessed with appearance?


2 Responses to “Two Eyes in the Mirror Discusses Beauty in Korea, Part 5: Discussion and Conclusion”

  1. Sophie-Marie October 20, 2011 at 9:07 pm #

    Dear Urban-Decay-Mascara-Buddy,
    This is positively fascinating. I was really interested in finding out more about Korean beauty standards, and that sums it all. It’s rather sad, though, that girls alter themselves so much (I’m disappointed to learn that Zhang Ziyi, one of my favourite actresses, did the double eyelid surgery!)… People need to understand that “looking western” doesn’t have to be equal to physical perfection. If everybody looked the same, like all the identical dolls in the Barbie aisle at Toys are Us, then the world would be the most boring place ever.

    • eunoia November 19, 2012 at 1:32 am #

      I feel like the idea that they are trying to look more “western” thing is an idea put into their heads by westerners x.x. I feel like koreans and some other asian cultures already valued lighter skin, almond double lids and oval faces before they’d even seen a white person. And as for hair dying, well everyone’s hair is black so of course people are going to dye their hair.

      I’m not saying that there is absolutely no western influence of beauty standards in other countries.. there definitely is but yeah.

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