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?
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.”
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?