Discovering Korean perceptions of beauty in Seoul
Whether it is K-pop idols or just normal, everyday K-pop fans, the beauty obsession in South Korea is noticeable when visiting. Throughout my recent trip to Korea I noticed that outward appearance seemed to be a constant preoccupation for women there. From the ones seen sporting high heels and shorts to the high school girls who I spotted stopping to take pictures in the street every few seconds; the need to be seen as appealing high.
I also walked past an astounding amount of cosmetic shops selling products to ‘enhance natural beauty’. Now I’m sure we’ve all heard of some of the unique beauty tips and tricks that South Korea has to offer (with cosmetic surgery being highly sought after) but little things like this made me realise the full extent of people’s desire to be viewed as somewhat ‘perfect’ there.
On a train ride to Hongdae, I spotted two normal young girls happily joking around and drinking banana milk. After a quick glance away, I looked back at them to see that they had both removed their glasses and pulled out tiny mirrors. I watched as one by one they both began to apply eyeliner and put in contact lenses. Although I did find this a little unusual I did not view this as anything different from what I might see young women doing in the UK. What I witnessed next however was somewhat of a culture shock to me. One of the girls proceeded to stick a product that appeared to be a type of glue over her eyelid whilst prodding it; while her friend used a clear tape on her own eyelids and began to do the same. I knew right away that this was so they could give off the illusion of having double eyelids.
It is a common thing all over the world for young people to find ways to change their appearance but actually watching two young girls modifying their looks so openly was not only shocking, but also eye-opening to me. As a young woman myself I know what it feels like to want to change something about one’s appearance in order to feel more acceptable in the eyes of society. But I really feel that all the perfect looking idols and models in Korea are what could be viewed as a somewhat negative effect on today’s youth of Seoul. Or maybe it’s simply a flawed perception of what beauty truly is.
This is part of a series of posts about body image in K-pop and Korean society.
Written by Kim