Please don’t judge me by ‘idol standards’: The dangers of expecting perfection.

Korean idols; we all have an opinion on them. From the lovers to the haters, each person has their own views on the way stars are viewed both within and outside the ‘fandom’ world. Many of these views can verge on the extreme and even the use of the word ‘idol’ says a lot about the unquestioning beliefs of many fans that their favourite stars are an embodiment of perfection. But by viewing idols too highly, do we place idols on a dangerously high imaginary pedestal and does this have an impact on the way we view ourselves and others?

Many will deny knowledge of doing this but often fans do.  This can lead to them becoming trapped in a mind-set by which they will measure their own personal lives and achievements against idols. This can affect the way in which view not only their own body image but also those around them. Many times I have been at events filled with young fans having conversations solely surrounding the way they look. A normal topic between teenage girls, yes, but often shadowed by the inclusion of what they would have ‘fixed’.

From my own experience I have seen many examples of people becoming disappointed when they meet with Koreans in an everyday situation. I was once told by a very distraught friend that he had become confused when confronted by a young female who had told him he was ‘far to average looking’ to be Korean. Within the past two years in which the Hallyu Wave has made its biggest international impact, more Koreans than ever are undergoing simple to complex surgeries in order to improve their looks and confidence.

The Hallyu wave has in its immense flourish created a deeper darker side. Talking to one girl at a language meet, I was told that for her eighteenth birthday she had asked for double eyelid surgery and a ‘slight’ nose job as she had become uncomfortable with the way she looked after visiting London and spending some time with fans of K-pop. However, it is not just women who have become affected by this as many men are now opting to endure procedures in order to live up to the idolised and polished image that has been set for them. Is it not unfair to have to review yourself and feel the need to improve one’s self in order to live up to an image that has been set by others?

I realise that in this world many things can impact the way in which we view ourselves and that the media also has an effect on how we view and crave ‘perfection’, but within the world of K-pop this seems to be getting more and more dangerous.

Whatever happened to just being yourself? The standards by which K-pop idols are viewed and set should not be a guideline to defining everyday people. Attempting to be ‘good enough for them’ is a bad way to live but also pushing that judgement onto others is wrong in so many ways. If people were to judge you on the basis of your skin colour, this would automatically be viewed as racist and ignorant. Is it not the same concept to judge a person’s standard of beauty simply because they are Asian?

People should remember that not every Asian person they come across is Korean nor are they an idol. To want every Korean to match up to the image that has been created for idols is incomprehensible to say the least, but also potentially very damaging.

This is part of a series of posts about body image in K-pop and Korean society.

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Co-founder and Editor at Beyond Hallyu
Lover of Korean hip-hop and indie music...and Unicorns.
  • chad

    i think some foreigners just add me on their friend list in facebook and in something like that because i am a korean. in that situation, i kind of feel nervous that i should act like a .perfect person such as an ‘idol’.

    in short…i agree on your view

  • Sophie

    All media creates an image of perfection or even an image of how it is normal for a certain race/ gender to act. It highly stereotypes and obviously plays up to these stereotypes to promote image/fame. For example Psys recent global hit ‘Gangnam style’. Psy lives up to one of the more western stereotypes of a typical Asian man- Chubby, geeky, fun loving and someone completely different to western ideals.

    I think in Korean entertainment among ‘idols’ they use this image of perfection in both looks and behavior, to create an unrealistic image, which young girls and boys cant reject because the romantic expectations in their head have been once again lifted- it is as if figures from childhood fairy tales have been adapted to convince an older and more consumer driven audience.

    Idols have all been manufactured by each of their respective companies, They have been recruited for either their looks or talent and then trained or ‘fixed’ so that they then become the best of both worlds. This gives younger fans who want to be like their idols the incentive to go out buy more make up, clothes, hair dye but also it seems it has pushed not only younger fans but also older, to question their own appearance and strive for perfection, its true, but not only perfection in themselves, perfection in their respective partners.

    Koreans do now have this overly commercial look associated with their race because most people only know about Korea and Korean culture through its vastly growing entertainment, which greats an overly romantic picture of Korea and the people there.

    What frightens me the most about the amount of plastic surgery in Korea is not because they are all unhappy with their appearance people are free to do what they want as long as it makes them happy, but because they seemingly strive to look more ‘western’. Double eyelid surgery is to make their eyes look bigger, however can they not see the charm in their natural appearance?

    In the end, no matter what we look like, we are all born and we all die the same way.

    I have also realized that obsessive amounts of fans have taken an obsessive like to Koreans in general enough for it not to be uncommon to hear people declaring they will ONLY marry a Korean… or an Asian. I think maybe some fans need to start broadening their minds and look back at other races because every race has individual attractive qualities. Its just recently, In particular, Korean attractive qualities have been layed out more obviously to see.

  • Hellodyme

    I met some 15 years old Kpop fan last time , many asians were around and they were saying they just wanted a Korean boyfriend … I guess for them Kpop is a beautifuf candy wrap ..

  • Jacqueline

    When I spoke about how CL from 2NE1 has suddenly become this sex toy prancing around on stage on another site, I was told I was being harsh or something to that effect. It was said that her performance on stage wasn’t sexual. I disagreed because she claims that she wants to display a different image of Asian women and she calls herself the baddest female as well as she’s a rapper. She wants to be fierce, yet there she is prancting around all sexy and such just making the stereotype of Asian women more valid. I gave a reference of a female rapper (Yoon Mi-Rae) that doesn’t dress all sexy and doesn’t do cutesy things. She’s powerful and is great example of shattering the sexy love you long time Asian woman stereotype. CL is young and so she only is looking at the stereotype of the quiet obedient Asian woman and not what most men look at in terms of sex. I was told that she was owning her sexuality. That’s is NOT how you own your sexuality. it’s how you further exploit yourself thinking you’re being powerful while men make the money off of you. CL was perfect the way she was and now she’s something that she isn’t. In my opinion, this industry has ruined what used to be a beautiful young woman. Now she’s so overly done just to fit the what executives in Kpop feel she should look like which in turn makes other young girls want to look like her. Just plain sick.

    • Sarah


    • Music

      Isn’t the stereotypical asian woman a quiet obedient submissive person? Because I don’t see that in CL, she’s loud and sexy. There’s nothing wrong with expressing your sexuality, just because someone isn’t prancing around fully covered with no makeup, doesn’t make them a “sex toy”. She was and still is a beautiful young girl who’s passionate towards performing. Those people that disagreed with you are mostly right, she is owning her sexuality. CL is there to shatter the stereotypes and she’s making a good job at it, she’s fierce despite showing skin.

      • Jacqueline

        There isn’t anything wrong with being confident in your sexuality and your own body. All I’m saying is that young women today think that wearing the least amount of clothing and “dropping it like it’s hot” is the way to go instead of using their talent they are using their bodies playing right into the hands of those who would have turn up the sexy. Men don’t have to do this in order to get ahead. I feel that she’s just trying to be what you see from a lot American artist when it would be refreshing to have he be completely different. Fierce without the skimpy clothing and sexy moves. It can be done.

        As well as when I say stereotypical Asian woman, I was talking about the “love you long time” that pisses me off and is very offensive.

        I would love to see a woman accepted for her brains and her inner self and not what’s on the outside which ends up causing pain and stress amount young girls and even women in the way of insecurity and self doubt.