How Korean Girls Learn to be Insecure About Their Bodies

Seriously, it’s great that the makers of this video are trying to encourage children to eat healthy foods with fermented bean paste (된장) rather than candy. But do they really need to be told (0:49) that it’s good for their “S-lines” and “V-lines” too? For those few of you that don’t know what either are, this next commercial in particular makes the former pretty clear:

(Source. The text reads “The S-line you want to have.”)

Note that Go Ara, the actress in the commercial, is actually much younger (16) than she may appear above. Meanwhile, here are some commercials for a tea-drink which supposedly gives you a V-line chin, which at least have actual grown women (BoA, 22; Kim Tae-Hee, 28) endorsing the product:

Not by coincidence, here are some “face rollers” which started to appear all over Korea not long after I first heard of V-lines. I’ve read that they’ve been used for many years in Japan and Taiwan too, so Korean women too may well have been using for a long time before they started worrying about their V-lines specifically. But then they weren’t popular enough for me to have noticed them at all until last year, and certainly sellers of them have been making explicit references to V-lines ever since the concept first appeared:

(Source)

Alas, I’m not entirely certain why an ad explicitly for women opens with some not particularly flattering shots of men either (that’s singer Lee Seung-gi {이승기} on the left and comedian Kang Ho-dong {강호동} on the right). But that they do so humorously does help reinforce the notion that dieting (etc.) is only something for women to be concerned about.

Or perhaps just girls, as I’ve never actually seen a woman using one. My 13 year-old students, however, use them every other break…(sigh).

Update: See here, here, and here for much more on the constant invention of new, often impossible body shapes and “lines” for Korean women to strive for, and for North American and European parallels.

47 thoughts on “How Korean Girls Learn to be Insecure About Their Bodies

  1. That V-line thing freaks me out. I cannot stand having a disproportional head.

    Everybody loved BoA so much more when she was a teenager with baby fat.

    Hollywood stars are voluptuous, but compared to Korean stars, they’re more like…fat.

    But hey! I thought that with animé, the Japanese find round faces cute, and wouldn’t that somehow rub off on Japan’s neighbour, Korea?

  2. Kym,

    I’m confused, does the V-line thing freak you out because the whole notion that only women with V-lines are attractive is…well…bullshit, or do you disagree and are freaking out because you lack a V-line? If the latter, then I needn’t worry, and I seriously doubt that anybody outside of Korea would consider you to have a “disproportional head”.

    Yes, Japanese animé has considerably rubbed off on Korea. I don’t know much about it though, but for more on that you may find this recent semi-related post of Gord Sellar’s interesting.

  3. I recently posted this on my xanga to show people, that I swear, Koreans have problems with so much insecurity and things to “live up to”. Me being an American born Korean, see this as male-propaganda and a way to make girls feel so inadequate. Who the hell says having a “big face” is bad? Who thinks up this shit!? So I showed this to my mom, and she is supportive on these “lines” that so do not exist. I try to explain to her that this is the way society wants women to look. Ridiculous is say, and she rants on that it’s the pretty thing to want.

    Thanks for posting this, I can now share this ridiculous notion with my Korean friends!

    – Ashley

  4. The V-line thing is pretty, I admit. But out of the two for my being freaked out by it, I’d have to say the former: “the whole notion that only women with V-lines are attractive “.

    I was just thinking of Ayumi Lee’s slimming down as the basis of it.

    James, that link you gave me was really interesting. Thanks! :)

  5. Kym,

    that’s good to hear. i didn’t know who Ayumi Lee was, but a quick search found lots of information about her slimming down for it!

    Glad you liked the link.

    Ashley

    “Who the hell says having a “big face” is bad?”…yes, quite, but you’ll be amazed at how much convincing many Korean women need, and despite the tens of thousands of times I’ve told my wife how beautiful she is if I so much as very playfully tease her that she has a “square” head she’ll have a crisis of confidence for days on end. Naturally I don’t do that all that much these days.

    Speaking of which, a cool role model you may be interested in Park Kyung-lim (pictures here) who has done a lot to challenge the notion that women with faces like hers can’t be sexy.

    I invariably hear the “because they want to be pretty” line from many Koreans when I ask why they want to whiten their skin, or get cosmetic surgery and so forth. I don’t want to generalize, and to be fair, it’s a ready, easy answer that’s not untrue per se, but I hear it too often and I do really think that using it inhibits deep thinking about what exactly “pretty” is and who’s defining it for us so on.

    I read your xanga post, and thanks for the link to it. Just out of curiosity, may I ask what were you studying when you mention you came across this blog? Xanga doesn’t seem very user-friendly to newbies, and so sorry if did write that somewhere before, but I couldn’t find it.

  6. 볼쌀 still has a particular place in Korean hearts, but that’s only if you have cute puffy cheeks, like Sohee in Wondergirls. She’s a pretty good example of acceptable 볼쌀. The V-line always looks strange on Korean faces, like they haven’t slept enough.

    I also don’t really know if Park Kyung Lim is a good example for what is considered alternative “sexy,” cos I’ve never heard anyone call Park Kyung Lim sexy.

    Ayumi Lee of SM, of course SM, has been through sooo many plastic surgeries. Like midway in stint in the girl group Sugar, her eyes mysteriously tripled in size. Granted, Sugar was created for crossover appeal in Japan, hence the anime-esque style. But I still shudder just thinking about her eyes. She looked like those Blythe dolls.

    People are particularly fixiating on her recent round because in addition to the plastic surgery she also lost like 20 lbs after being what struck me as like a healthy 50-55 kilo weight. (I can’t help mixing up the weights, I’m a Korean-American, so I think in lbs.) SM is particularly known for being oppressive, even by Korean entertainment standards, for the surgery and weight loss they require of their members.

    I don’t buy the S line shiz for one second. I have yet to ever see a Korean woman in Korean advertising that has anything even remotely resembling junk in the trunk OR boobs. Hips sometimes, but boobs or tuckus? Nope. Maaaaybe Jeon Ji Hyun post-My Sassy Girl, but then she went back to being anorexic, sorry, acceptably thin again. Koreans are so not comfortable with what I would call a hourglass figure, aka S line. Alas.

  7. Jae Young,

    I’d never heard of “볼쌀”. But my wife knew it, so I wonder why it wasn’t in my dictionary?

    In hindsight, that may be the wrong adjective to use to describe Park Kyung Lim. But she is not unattractive, as I recall many people mentioning at about the time of her wedding especially, and besides which, what is “sexy” really? Obviously everyone has different definitions, but to me being sexy is primarily derived from having a positive and assertive attitude to sex and one’s body, which obviously can’t really be conveyed in simple images. Not having met her personally then I couldn’t say if she is sexy or not then, but the fact that she doesn’t give a crap about not having a V-line and so on certainly helps.

    I’d disagree that Koreans are not so comfortable with hourglass figures; I see an increasing number of women with them in real life. But unless we’re getting out and measuring like the scientists in that lin I gave did, then what is or isn’t an S-line or hourglass figure and so on is pretty subjective too really!

  8. Well, while I can’t vouch for its antiquity, this seems not to be such a modern concern either, the fear of big faces 호박 is a term I’ve heard several times — in different ways in different places, like 호박 얼굴 or 호박 모리, to basically call someone “Pumpkinhead.” There’s a term for when someone’s head is too small, of course, and ever a bizarre term for when someone has an uneven arse. I kid you not: “짝궁댕이.”

    Which is something I’m told classmates occasionally point out about one another, and I’m pretty sure I even heard one college student mock another for it, which makes me think Korean youth need a serious injection of self-defensive snark. (“Just why are you looking at my ass, Chulsoo?”) Especially since the most common response I’ve seen to, “You’re not pretty,” from a man to a woman in college-aged students is blushing and silence. (“And you think you’re handsome? I know a good ophamologist you should see…” would at least leave a shred of dignity intact. You know, the kind of dignity that would have someone gawk or laugh at doing exercises to correct ass-unevenness.)

    That said, looking at a film like The Housemaid, I can say that the body-types of the women in it are more varied than we tend to see in media today (because usually a heavier Korean woman is the butt of a joke when she appears at all, and because even an astronaut is demanded, by some, to look like a movie star). It was also a better film than many of the contemporary ones!

  9. I knew the term “호박” meant an unattractive girl or woman, which is why I use it with teenage girls who call me “빡빡이” (baldie), but I didn’t realize it meant specifically the shape of their faces. It does make a lot of sense though.

    Come to think of it, I never have actually used it. Other than the odd princess-types in their late-twenties, it’s just the teenage boys that call me that these days. Odd.

    I’d agree that Korean youth, women especially, seem to lack the balls to treat comments like that the way they deserve (can’t think of a more apt term at the moment sorry). There was the same passivity amongst the female university students at my very first teaching job here, although as most of the criticisms were in Korean I didn’t realize how bad it was until my girlfriend (now wife) told me later. I do recall though, that one particularly obese male not only thought it perfectly socially acceptable to chide my Canadian female colleague for being fat (same height as him but half the weight!), but chose to do so in the first few minutes of his first class with her too. Needless to say, he was told in no uncertain terms to fuck off and never step foot in her classroom again…

  10. The beauty of Korean, as I am sure you know, is the gazillion phrases/terms that are not in dictionaries but crop up all the time in everyday use. I know all sorts of colloquial terms and phrases picked up from my family that rarely come up in more formal classes/training. A few years back, when I decided to take more formal Korean classes, I used to drive my Korean teacher crazy because I spoke more “naturalistic” Korean, but then my non-native/heritage classmates would have no idea what I was talking about. 볼쌀 is one of those words. I also think people refer to cute chubby cheeks as 만두 too.

    Park Kyung Lim is hard too because she’s a comedian and comedians are rarely good looking, as far as I’ve seen, because for some reason, you can’t be funny if you’re good looking? This is something that applies to both men and women.

    Koreans don’t really value lip in young women, well at least in my experience. I get yelled at all the time for being sarcastic, loud and obnoxious. When you’re an ajumma, it’s okay, but 눈치 reigns supreme~

    I suppose S lines and hourglass figures are relative and having grown up in the US, I have definitely been exposed to a wider range of body types, so I may scoff at S lines, etc but really, a lot of those people posing in CFs don’t have that golden ratio, as far as I can see. They are clearly overextending the curvature of their back to give the appearance of butt. I do find it interesting the growing popularity of people like Beyonce in Korea, but she’s black and American. I don’t know if that sort of leeway in body shape is given to people who are ethnically Asian or people who live day to day with Koreans, as I’m not in Korea. I know people give Hyori crap all the time for being fat and old when she is clearly neither.

  11. I couldn’t agree more about the words that are not in dictionaries but crop up all the time in everyday use. While Korean books are improving all the time (especially the Sogang/서강 series), and can’t help being a bit behind colloquial language, the absence of those terms in textbook conversations is one of the reasons why I find those to be quite unlike the ones I hear in everyday life. Sometimes I seriously contemplate taping a dictaphone under a table in Starbucks, just to have some authentic conversations to work with…

    I’ve never thought about how attractive comedians are, but quickly thinking about it now I’d have to admit that I can think of plenty of average to unattractive-looking ones but no outstanding ones. I wonder if that applies across all cultures? Regardless, there’s probably still much much less of a correlation between comedians and unattractiveness and most comedians being the last child in a family though.

    I hear what you’re saying about 눈치 too, and of course, not just a Korean thing by any means. Before she returned there to live, my more-Kiwi-than-me Taiwanese friend once mentioned to me how she so easily falls into a set pattern of covering her mouth when laughing, being quiet and so on every time she visited for a vacation.

    One reason that you may find S-lines relative is that I’m not entirely certain that there is any scientific definition for it. What is it except T&A in a certain (uncomfortable) posture to emphasize both? How is it any different to the previous 쭉쭉빵빵 term used before? Hourglass figures, in contrast, can be and are scientifically defined by certain bust/waist/hip measurements and ratios, and on that basis researchers have been able to go on to prove that they’re much more fertile than other body types as described in that link in the post, and that men all over the world (from sophisticated urbanites to those in isolated tribes in the Amazon) tend to find that body type the most attractive, presumably for that reason.

    You may find this picture of 전혜빈 amusing, but also quite sad: she’s quite attractive, but felt compelled to look ridiculous because of all this S-line madness. Having said that, she wasn’t exactly forced to walk around like that, and she really should have known better!

    (Update: I decided to add the picture to the post)

  12. Indeed, and a very apt way to put it! But I must confess that having looked at the third video again, now I’m suddenly very curious about the size of my own face, and am very tempted to get 2 bottles and a ruler just to satisfy it…I’ll try to restrain myself until after a few beers on a rainy Sunday afternoon though :D

  13. As an ESLer (English instructor teaching Conversation I and II at a second-rank university) in Korea myself for the last eight years, with a young daughter of my own, I’m very intrigued by the issues you raise and observations you make about Korean gender perceptions and the state of feminism in this country.

    Our child is almost five and picking up Korean like a little sponge at her yuchiwan – but I also notice that she is picking up a number of mannerisms and attitudes just as quickly. For example, the high-pitched voice and ‘cutesy’ vocal stylings in which she speaks Korean are far removed from her ‘normal’ sweet, low tones when she uses English – and the new aggression, quick-to-whine-and-tears when her will is thwarted, and peremptory demands rather than requests for things are, I believe, a direct result of her exposure to her kindergarden friends and their behaviour (though the same could be said for a Western preschool, methinks).

    While I’m happy that she is learning the language, I’ll be pulling her out of yuchiwan next semester to homeschool full-time, and not incidentally, ensure that our values and mores are promoted and encouraged. I found it interesting that on her weekly ‘comments sheet’ (the school’s equivalent of ‘report card’) there are notations like ‘plays well with others’ and ‘enjoys answering questions’ but also ‘notices what others are wearing’ and ‘dresses well’ (no, I’m not kidding!)

    Did I mention I’m a feminist artist ‘on the side’? See my website, and feel free to contact me if you want to dialog further.

  14. Thanks for your comment Judy. At a ripe old age of 2 years and 4 months, I don’t have too many concerns in a feminist sense about my eldest daughter yet(!), but I’m very aware that they will invariably become an issue here, and it’s good to know what to anticipate.

    At the moment the biggest concern I have is not related to her gender but more the excessive attention she gets from being a mixed-race child (although most Koreans think she is purely Caucasian). I admit, she is indeed very cute, there’s of course nothing at all wrong with people pointing that out, and I do like to show her off frequently, especially as I’m not much to look at myself in my current sleep-deprived state. But on the other hand, other than it kind of being sad that she gets attention that a Korean-looking child wouldn’t, I worry that the constant attention and compliments will go to her head at some point. I’ve read of it happening to parents with slightly older children here.

    Still, despite everything I’ve written on the subject and living here 8 years myself, I couldn’t help but be surprised (and amused, sorry!) at the comments on your daughter’s report card…sooo typical. I doubt that the boy’s report cards would have any comments like that.

    If I was in the same situation as you I’d be in a bit of a dilemma…homeschooling is fine of course, but it’s also important that she gets plenty of chances to play and interact with other children. My own daughter goes with her mother to a “jump class” with other Korean children at a community center once a week, and every so often hangs out with other mothers in “international relationships” and their children, but their ages are quite mixed and it’s not as often as we’d like.

    I took a quick look at your website and will try to check it out more thoroughly sometime, but I’m afraid that my second daughter is keeping me pretty sleep-deprived and occupied right now!

  15. Hi James and everybody. I wish to first congratulate you James for your very interesting essays and posts! I have been reading a lot of your stuff intensely since yesterday and I am learning a lot of things! Lots of interesting facts, ideas, opinions, and so on.

    I am well surprised to read such things as S and V lines and all that crap. I knew Korea had an over-developed “consumerism” kind of culture, with overly thin women and all that, but this is really just too much. Wow, drinking tea to get your face to measure 12 cm large, sorry but I cannot refrain myself from saying WHAT THE FUCK!!?? It is well beyond ridiculousness seriously… That kind of crap advertising should be honestly made illegal, it is a serious matter…

    I think every country has their own areas of patheticness, and I am pretty fed-up with the american culture especially, or european culture in general, which has also reached unprecedented heights never seen before (and which is leading the world race of craziness), but let’s say I was maybe wearing some pink glasses when looking at asian countries like Korea, meaning by that maybe, as with many foreigners probably, I was slightly idealising this country (probably because of my korean girlfriend whom I met overseas a few years ago too). In the end I guess, most countries are all the same, and the consumerism worldwide culture cannot do anything else but to fuck up the whole world and its people. It is a very sad portrait of our modern world…

    I am still of course very interested by Korea and I have been studying the language since more than a year and a half, and I find this country very dynamic and full of culture, history and attractions, but it saddens me very much to know that so many young (and older) people have to suffer so many hardship and useless stress because of impossible standards society pushes them to meet (I know for once that Japan should be pretty much the same or worse, analogically). One thing is sure, things have to change! James, if you have enough time and willingness to make such essays in the Korean language, so they are available to the Korean people, it would be extremely interesting I think. I encourage you to continue your self-studies and I am happy you are sharing your sociological discoveries with us!

    Anyway thank you again for the interesting reading!

  16. Hi, your blog’s interesting.

    I think the specifics of the alphabetization of Korean women are best approached in the context of the classification of women into certain rigid subtypes (read: simplified stereotyopes) of women. The S-line and V-line are part of the ‘formula’ for the ‘pretty girl’ here, as are humongous pupils in big double-lidded eyes, cosmetically unaided pallor, bone-tight ligaments, etc. I would suggest that people here perpetuate this mind-boggling state of sheeple-ness precisely because this ‘formula’ serves as helpful, socially constructed and ordained criteria – with which to deduce the type of woman being dealt with, and to adjust manners to suit.

    Manners are adjusted according to the woman’s ‘type’ because it is widely taken as a given that certain things can/cannot be said/thought about women depending on how they look (value-judgment wise). The socially ‘accepted’ or ‘conceivable’ scenario that follows any such encounter is rigidly stratified into according variations. My take on this phenomenon is that this is directly derived from a warped and popularized confucian principle popularized in the chosun dynasty called 정명론 (正名論), or literally ‘right name idea’, in which the ‘father should be fatherlike and the son sonlike etc.’ A beauty should be treated as a beauty, or a ‘talking flower'; an ugly girl can be laughed at/with (hence the ‘ugly’ – or, as I like to put it, ‘uglified’ – comedian typification.)

    I’m a Korean girl and I’ve lived in Seoul nearly all my life, going through the average Korean educational system to enter the undergraduate level here. Inferring from the numerous social contexts in which I’ve encountered such blunt references to conventionally ugly/pretty features, I would venture the possibility that in originally familial, communal societies where everyone had to stick together whether they liked it or not, the ‘insult’ was not only an insult per se, but also employed as a form of veiled endearment. This is widely considered the ideal sort of 부담없는(easygoing) interaction between two close individuals – dialogue employing insult as endearment, or ‘constructively realistic advice to help you in the real world’ – and is often the most commonly resorted-to excuse for horrific verbal abuse. (Coloring vacuous praise according to these featural types is also just such a form of ordained interaction, considered honest and respectful and completely normal.)

    I do not, however, think that this should simply be chalked up to individual stupidity on the part of people that blindly follow this line of thought/action – quite the contrary. I think it’s very telling that the homogenizing retardation of the populace in this regard is and has always been spearheaded by *the commercial/entertainment media sector,* which is – big surprise – notoriously homogenized/stereotyped! It has even resorted to homogenizing certain snapshots of stereotyped ‘diversity’ or ‘unconventionality’ in the form of teen idols that are held up on pedestals as somehow being harbingers of Korea’s ‘openness’ and ‘creativity of the youth’.

    As a twentysomething Korean woman towards whom those commercials are directly marketed, I find all this very sad and disgusting and lame, and I am very troubled by the thought that people actually think Korean society is improving/ has improved in its bridging of (sexual or gender-based, if that’s your cup of tea, though I don’t think that’s all) dichotomies (if dichotimies are indeed criteria on which to issue any normative judgment.)

    I think it is not people being stupid, but the other way around (stupid being people, or stupidity donning the guise of specific individual avatars) : the root of the problem (of not seeing people for the people they are, and adjusting social perception/performance according to formulas hammered in by peer pressure since birth) is a sort of warped ‘commodification of human beings’ + ‘confucian backwash’ that is only being exascerbated as people constantly look to external/ international solutions to symptoms that stem from an overlooked, simplified, but inherently endogenous disease that must be addressed within its own context.

    I definately think something fundamental has to give. This isn’t just an odd cultural quirk to cluck tongues over – this S-line, this V-line trope, this alphebetization of women just as much as the stereotyping of men – it’s seriously symptomatic of some skewed rift in the goodness and saneness and kindness of people here vs. the expressed, contorted manifestations of such potential strengths.

    Not exactly concise, but this is my very understandably strong opinion regarding the topic of this post. But I’m no sociologist, so I wouldn’t know.

    • in first paragraph – sorry, this could be misunderstood, i don’t propose any normative suggestion – i’m suggesting as an explanation that people ‘are perpetuating’ etc.

      • Dear Chorahan,

        thanks very much for that comment, which must have taken a lot of time and effort, and quite frankly I don’t know where to begin replying to it properly! I do know though, that it is completely wasted sitting in an old post like this, so with your permission I’d like to incorporate it into a post I’m writing revisiting the topic of V-lines etc., of course attributing it all to you, and not changing what you wrote in any way.

        Please let me know!^^

  17. Hi, just stumbled on to your blog last night in between reviewing flashcards for my Chinese class, and I have to say I’m thrilled to find someone as interested (at least in this and recent posts) in the topic of standards of beauty, particularly in Korea. I do however have to argue a point. And this isn’t necessarily aimed at you personally or the views you hold, but you seem to be a willing enough participant in the discussions that occur because of your blog posts that I though I’d give it a shot.

    Looking back over said “beauty” posts, I continually find myself asking, “so what”? So what if Koreans openly put an exceptionally high standard on external appearance? So what if women in Korea try to become most easily divisible by which letter they most look like? So what if even kids are targeted by the media in what amounts to little more than marketers seeking the widest possible audience?

    Is all this something that doesn’t happen in western countries? You yourself have said that it is not.

    Granted, I come from something of a biased perspective in a number of ways. First of all, I don’t think of women in ad campaigns, subconciously or otherwise, as sex objects because I’m gay. Secondly, from my “objective” perspective on feminine beauty, I tend to lean more towards the thinner, petite side of women that are shown so ubiquitously in magazines from Vogue downwards. Thirdly, as someone who has been very tall (6’5″, so ~195cm)and called thin all his life almost in place of standard introductions, I can see where all of the body-conciousness in our society comes from; it’s only natural to judge someone first and foremost on appearance.

    Anyway, back to the jist, I have to say, is it a bad thing that Korean ad firms target womens’ physical appearance so blatantly? After all, at least it seems as though a Korean woman knows what’s expected of her in terms of appearance. In the West, on the contrary, we constantly say that size doesn’t matter, which we know perfectly well to be false. Heterosexual males may not be as turned on by a 100lb, 170cm woman as they are by one maybe 20lbs heavier, but the upper limit to what most males find attractive, by my subjective observations, is significantly lower than what the average woman in the U.S. (my country of residence) now weighs. Because we’ve told women (and men) that size doesn’t matter, things have, to be polite, gotten out of hand. According to the U.S. gov’t, which calculates these things based on body-mass index (admittedly a very poor way of doing so, basically just weight divided by height), more than two-thirds of women in America are overweight.

    Although of course there are exceptions, in most East Asian countries overweight and obese people, particularly women, are fairly rare. I think in part it’s because the culture in that part of the world (yay generalizations!) says outright that size does matter, whereas we say it doesn’t, but really it still does.

    In short, long-winded post aside, I’d rather be in a country where people say to my face that I’m fat instead of whispering it to each other as I walk by. At least that way, the social pressure to be thin is so much greater and clearer that it can’t be overlooked or downplayed to save face for those applying that pressure. And in terms of health, I think more would rather be underweight than overweight. After all, eating disorders affect, what, about 10% of women in the U.S., while obesity-related diseases kill millions each year. Just from the perspective of someone living in the U.S., I think maybe being a bit more upfront about the natural inclination towards “thinner” (when compared to the national average) women may not be such a bad thing after all.

    Then again, having never been to Korea, you’re more able to say whether this is quite so helpful there as it would be here. Of course, culture aside, that brings us to the question of whether certain ethnic groups are naturally thinner or not, which is another issue entirely of questionable validity and fairness….

  18. Wow…Koreans are in a word very hypocritical…Confucius? Moral Values? Really?! I was once a US soldier in Korea…To resent the fact American’s “occupy” your country and “fuck” your women is laughable to me…As far as morality goes, I’ve fucked enough Korean women and seen enough whore houses to not agree with thatat all! They make themselves seem like a pure and innocent race…NOT TRUE…If the Japanese and Koreans look similar I can almost guarantee their genetics are close as well so you can’t be “pure”…Not to mention the enormous amount of surgical procedures Korean “superstars” who copy REAL western superstars undergoe…C’mon leg surgery?! Seriously?! Obviously there is some sorta of personal conflict with Koreans and Korea in general…You can’t spend your entire lifetime bashing other ethnic groups or countries without first looking in the mirror of the surgically enhanced face you stare and say is superior to the world…In a nutshell, I hate corea and JAPAN kicks ass…

    P.S. They gave the world Playstation

    • Hmmm…well, “gookpuncher” as a name and saying “In a nutshell, I hate corea” gets you an instant ban on this blog I’m afraid, let alone your first ever rant comment on it having absolutely nothing to do with the post…

      • Thank you for pointing this out. I was very intrigued by your blog, and even more so by the excellent discussion, but this particular post made me so angry. I’m glad you’re trying to facilitate an open, yet respectful conversation.

        • You’re welcome, and no need to thank me: people are welcome to (and frequently do) disagree with me and other commenters, but I’ve got absolutely no time for people writing online what they know full well would get them punched in the face and/or kicked out of the house if they said it in real life.

          In 3.5 years of blogging, I’ve never had any reason to regret instantly banning trolls, and simply can’t understand bloggers that give them free reign to spew whatever racist and sexist trash they like.

  19. I can’t agree with you more Luke.

    The US is nation of obesity and it is spreading to other countries through our fast food like McDonalds and Pizza Hut.

    How we are expected to treat each other is a stark contrast to Korea. We(Americans), like Luke said, must be tolerant of people who let themselves go because we don’t want them to lose self-confidence and self-esteem. Ironically I have found that fat people have low self-esteems often perpetuated by their fat appearance. Though many say that “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” I have found that the cover often reflects very well on the outside from appearance to how someone’s mannerisms and social acuity and ability. So fat appearances often reflect the lazy(or instant gratificatying), self-loathing person on the inside. Yet how far do we want to go the other way. My very skinny Korean friend was visiting last summer and wanted to buy a Bikini and wear it while in America because in Korea she always felt guys would randomly come up to her and say she is too fat to wear a bikini. In Korea, strangers felt comfortable going up to strangers and criticizing their style and weight. When I was living in China, I visited Korea multiple times. I noticed that the girls often looked perfect but without an ounce confidence. It was nice though that even the old ladies took care of themselves. But many of the girls looked the same because of plastic surgery often getting rid of the Korean features that made them uniquely beautiful. To be successful in creating people who take care of themselves without extreme and while remaining healthy we need to instill in them self-confidence. I avoid fat girls for two reasons, they are way too insecure and they aren’t healthy. I want to raise healthy children, mentally and physically. I also avoid girls that are too invested in looking perfect because they also are unhealthy mentally and physically.

    • Thanks for your comment, and my apologies for not mentioning earlier that I added Luke’s comment to an open thread back in January, where it generated a lot of discussion that you might also be interested in reading: see here.

    • I avoid fat men because they are unhealthy, especially in my age bracket, when concerns about ED start to (pardon the pun) arise.

  20. Pingback: Global Feminist Link Love: April 26 – May 2 « Gender Across Borders

  21. I don’t know if it’s just me but in my opinion the term “fat” is different for a lot of people especially in the society that they live in.

    “When is a person considered fat?”

    Being a Canadian born Korean, there is a difference between what Americans consider someone fat and what Koreans consider. Korean’s general idea of fat is, if you look curvacious or just not what a skinny korean women should look like (figure wise). I’m not sure, but through personal experience seeing that I’m not the “typicial” korean girl with a slim body but rather chubby and with a bigboned structure, I am considered fat by my grandmothers and rest of my family that all immigrated to Canada.

    I WAS skinny during my early teens but somehow I wasn’t skinny enough, as my grandmother used to say. But I couldn’t get any skinnier because I was naturally biggerboned than the average Korean female (Large sholders, big ribcage).
    Though I am not skinny I do consider myself healthy. Just because a women is fat does not in anyway translate that she is unhealthy. Maybe in most cases it does, but there is a few who are healthy but their body just doesn’t show if physically (I hope this makes sense. It’s hard for me to explain sorry.) Thyroid conditions, slow metabolism, genetics, and the amount of money a person or family can afford healthy food are factors to consider.

    I do agree on both sides and in Luke’s opinion and yes, we Americans fool ourselves that size doesn’t matter just to make us feel somewhat secure about ourselves. In some ways it is good that Koreans are able to criticize about physical appearance, but it gets to a point where it’s overdone. To the point where every forsaken person on the face of Korea is telling you that you are “fat” or “need to loose weight” or even criticizing on your facial features that you are BORN with, needs to be fixed.
    Some criticizing is okay because it can help motivate or help you become aware of your health, but it just gets to a point where it’s enough, you know?

    In a lot of shows that Park Kyung Lim is in, she does get made fun of once in a while due to her face shape. Sure it’s okay and it’s just for laughs, but in my opininon I find it kind of sad especially on television that many people watch, ridicule and make fun of her face shape. She is a respected person no doubt but this sets an example of what happens especially in the entertainment business where it pressures men and women to go through plastic surgery and what entertainment companies (ie SM) force their singers and actors to go through. To the extent where more than 90% of singers/actors had at least one plastic surgery.

    Through my personal experience and knowledge, such blunt criticizm can be both good and bad. Good in a way that motivates but bad because it’s too an extent where the critiicisim just wont stop or get too harsh, even though you’ve done as much as you can. It turns emotional and gets to you mentally. I don’t know, it’s just what I think and go through.

  22. I read this page,after visiting an all Asian surgery site.
    Im a med student in Serbia,and worked on an essay in chin reduction.By chin reduction,I mean what is considered chin reduction here,where surgeons only tend to minimize pointy chins.
    When i saw what horrid operations Asians tend to do,i was stunned!
    Born Caucasian and in a contry that has a lot of China and Korean citizens I find that I see Asian women as more beautiful than reagular white women,and it astonishes me that thay would go to such lengths to change their appearance.I most certanly like the square shape in Asians,both male and female….as fore the cheeks I find it a great opposite to my own very high cheeks and small bucal muscle,hat result in my face allways looking sunken.
    All uniformity of people is wrong.I find it a great deal distressing to read all of these beliefs that are implanted in to Korean,or any other Asian women!

  23. P.S.Must learn some Mandarin(or Korean,or what ever language),i dont understand a thing i those commercials! :D

  24. As a Women’s Studies student, I am fascinated with this particular blog post. The V-line, S-line (and so forth) phenomenon is in fact very similar to what we call fragmentation of the female body in the American pop culture. In music videos, you’ll often find that the camera will focus only on certain parts of the female bodies, showing only the “objects” of interest of the viewer (assumed to be young males) rather than people. By focusing only on the line that the torso and the lower body creates, rather than the body as a whole, they’re sending the message that this female body does not need anything other than sexual attention.

    Anyway, it was also very interesting for me to read personally because I’m a Korean-American woman. I grew up in a rather non-traditional household, and my mother is, thank goodness, a strong-willed and proud feminist. My father is also very supportive of such thinking.

    Thanks so much for such a great read!

    • Thank you very much, and I’m very interested in learning more about this “fragmentation” concept you mention, as it chimes in with a lot of what I’ve been noticing about Korean pop culture and especially advertising recently.

      And I’m also interested in reading more of your own blog (although please write an “About page”), and hope you get your new computer soon. It’s such a pity we didn’t discover each other just a few weeks earlier though, as I was actually in Boston to give a lecture on Korean gender issues at Wellesley College less than 2 weeks ago!

      Anyway, I’ve written a lot more posts on the Korean alphabetization phenomenon since writing this post 2.5 years ago, so let me give you some links to those…but tomorrow morning sorry, as it’s 1:18am as I type this! ZZzz….zzz….

  25. I worked in Korea for a bit and had a good time.

    I think the reason it’s so surprising is that Koreans standard of beauty is the opposite of what we whites and blacks in the US consider “Asian” traits: single eyelid, small butts, yellow-ish skin. For me, anyway. It was surprising to me as a black person to see so much skin bleach used in Korea. I thought blacks had like cornered the market on skin bleaching! LOL I also was shocked to discover almost ALL women got plastic surgery to get double eyelids.

    I studied in Latin America as well, and the fact of plastic surgery doesn’t shock me (almost all affluent people in certain areas get plastic surgery. In the place where I stayed, surgery was something to be proud of! Almost all teens got it at some point.) But I was like…who cares about double eyelids. LOL

    For caribbean and african women, a lot of girls bleach their skin and use chemicals to straighten their hair. Some girls also wear light-colored contact lenses. I grew up in a multicultural environment in the US, so the pressure to do that was not big, but in my own country and in african countries, black women go to EXTREMES to whiten their skin, straighten hair or wear uncomfortable artificial hair, colored contacts etc.

    White women aren’t any different, either IMO. People consider white women the most attractive…But almost every white woman I know does some sort of “crazy beautification.” At some point, I realized I really don’t know any natural blonds LOL. Seriously, hair dye supposedly causes cancer, but there are lots of women who put chemicals in their hair each month because they *have to be blond.

    Almost all Jewish women get nose jobs to get rid of a hump/bump at some time in their lives (usu teens/twenties) as well. And it’s well publicized that a lot of white women and teenagers tend to go use excessive dieting. Whites also seem to be more concerned with wrinkles and use things like facial peels, botox and face lifts. If you think about it from an outsider’s point of view…those are pretty crazy. Putting acid on your face?

    So for me, while I was surprised at Korea for a couple of years, I think I was only surprised because I didn’t expect Asians to be that vain. You know how they have the stereotypes of Asians in the US… But I guess they’re like everyone else.

    • Hair color products in darker shades sold in the 50s and 60s contained a carcinogen that is no longer used.

      The white woman’s equivalent of the black woman’s “good hair” and weaves is good skin that tans easily and fake bake. The Duchess of Cambridge’s complexion was lightened in official wedding portraits to bring her fake baked skin color closer to that of her husband and others in the photo. It amazes me that white women walk around all winter with tanned skin and do not think they look out of place on the streets of NYC or London.

  26. Koreans are naturally beautiful and fit!!! i just don’t understand why they worry so much about their looks and have plastic surgery and such. *sigh* -__-

  27. I realize that CNN already broadcasted about the plastic surgery among asian women, especially Korean women. I believe what CNN showed is just a tip of iceberg compared to what’s really happening in Korea. CNN dealt with mainly the eyelid and nose surgery, however, it is a minor, in fact the most basic surgery that almost every korean woman goes through. They considered as a minor because they are relatively easy procedures. Nowadays, there is this horrible but really popular surgery commonly performed in Korea. It is called ‘V-line’ surgery. What it does is that it literally ‘cuts’ the big jaw – probably using a chain saw – to make women’s jaw more V shape and small. I have a older sister who was very pretty. She firstly had the eyelid surgery done about 4 years ago. Recentely, she had another surgery, the V-line surgery. She is giving her excuse that she can’t survive in Seoul because everybody looks pretty because everybody does the surgery. The problem is that this dangerous horrible surgery is not just story of some korean celebrity, but it’s story of normal people like my sister who is living her normal life doing normal job. There have been a couple of TV shows (documentaries) in Korea warning how dangerous the surgery can be by showing the interviews with people suffering from the deadly side effects. There is a blog that those people who think they ruined their faces from surgery. (http://cafe.daum.net/bluebeauty) There are 70,000 members who write about their miserable lives. They don’t seem to live normal lives, but have to hide from people for all thier lives. Even though this is not a secret in the society, this doesn’t seem to stop korean women from going under not just a knife but a chain saw.
    Very recently booming surgery named ‘양악수술’ is supposed to performed for those who have orthogonatic problems. However, this is being performed for people who have absolutely no problem.
    I’m a korean myself, however, I feel extremely ashamed of my country. This is one of the most weirest places on earth to live. People don’t have any selfesteem.
    It’s hard to pinpoint what’s exactly causing this frantic phenomenon. I believe it’s not just there are lots of hospitals offering cheap surgeries. I believe those hospitals appeared because there were potential costumers. Maybe it’s because koreans value beauty (beauty in their weird criteria) most, more than anything else. One example is that when koreans apply for a job, they must put their photo showing their face on the resume, let alone putting their heights, weights, and ages.
    How superficial and shallow minded they are.
    I don’t think they will change their system even if this becomes international digrace. But I am writing this because I believe they should at least feel ashamed of what they are doing by being exposed in an international medium that korean women are the most ugliest in the world because their minds are ugliest even though they’re all putting the same artificial looking faces on.

    • You are a very well thought out person who is a brave individual to step out and speak up for what is right. I admire you.

  28. I totally agree. I’m a Korean and have been living here my whole life(well actually I’ve lived in Japan for over 6 years) but growing up, I never understood Korean girls very well(I’m a girl too) I guess beauty and fashion is always the topic of almost every girl on planet but Korean girls have a very bizzare and weird ideas about it and even older women have the same idea too. To foreigner, it’d be totally shocking and strange, but for Koreans, it had been growing in their minds by the media since forever that now they think the ideas are hundred percent right without any doubt. And that’s why I feel miderable about this counrty. Korean people have too many concept that are wrong but they don’t even wonder if it’s wrong and just follow whatever the media says. What piss me off the most is that even some ADULTS have the same idea as teenagers like even if they’re over 40. I’m so serious right now I mean I love this country but it’s sometimes too hopeless and I feel sorry about them. I’m amazed how the media can manipulate people so bad.

  29. Pingback: Inside the strange world of Korean body lines | South Korean Observer

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