Quick Hit: Advertising a Korean Stewardess School

It’s easy to criticize an industry that – in Korea at least – so needlessly stresses age and appearance, and to consider the young women that aspire to it as hopelessly vain and naive. However, despite these stereotypes, not only do the limited options available to Korean women arguably make stewardessing a rational, adventurous, and even quite rebellious career choice, but Korean airlines even require university degrees from applicants too (and some cabin crew actually have Ph.Ds!).

See the Korea Herald here for more information. Guaranteed, you’ll be much more sympathetic to Korean stewardesses (and hopefuls) after reading it!

Written by me last October, a couple of years after a Qatar Airways-bound student of mine forced me to rethink some of my own assumptions about stewardesses. One of the most intelligent and ambitious 23 year-olds I’ve ever met, I was reminded of her resolution and determination yesterday when I read that Asiana Airlines stewardesses had protested the company’s “sexist guidelines regarding female flight attendants’ appearance”, their union head arguing that:

Flight attendants are not Barbie dolls. We are professionals with diverse characteristics who strive to become successful. We should not be judged by how we appear outside. We cannot be subject to any discrimination at work just because we are women.

If anything, this stress on appearance is confirmed by the following advertisement for a Korea stewardess school, which begins by mentioning the benefits of becoming a stewardess, but then has a promotion about a competition to find the “uniform queen” on the back.

On the other hand, it is just the one ad, so we should be wary of drawing too many conclusions from it. I’m just presenting it here mostly for the sake of readers outside of Korea, who may never have seen a Korean one.

Also, from Korea-based readers, I’d be interested in hearing if any other universities likewise got inundated with other schools’ ads at the end of last semester, how they compare, and how effective you’d think they’d be with students (don’t dismiss the cartoon format though — recall that everything is cute in Korea!):

– If you’re a woman, who doesn’t want to become a stewardess? But there’s probably many women who don’t know what you have to do to prepare to be one (nod nod).

– I thought like that too when I began. I was short, my appearance was just average, my English wasn’t good…could I really do it? I worried a lot about it.

– But now you’re the perfect crew member, despite all that. Unbeliv[able]~!! (I don’t believe you!)

– [Older Sister]!! If you become a crew member, what are the benefits?

– The days off are great

– You get discounts on air travel

– You get global opportunities

– You make lots of money

– You even get support for your children’s tuition

– And lots more…


– So, older sister, how did you prepare? I too absolutely want that challenge!

– I’ll tell you how I did it.

– Okay then! Seonyeong’s stewardess success story, here we go~!!!

Keen eyes will have noticed that that was just Part 1; alas, I don’t have any more in the series, and can’t seem to find them on the school’s website sorry. But here is the back:

The title and first paragraph say:

– Find the Cosea Uniform Queen!!

– Cosea has a school vacation event for students with the dream of becoming crew members!

Next, there’s the details of that event:

– After having a free consultation and an image test, have your picture taken with an instant camera. The best student will win a free course at the school!!

– 1st prize: a free course

– 2nd prize: a set of interview clothes

– 3rd prize: a voucher for a free interview make-up and hair-styling session

– *Everybody that participates will get a personal color image check [James – ???]

Finally, it tells you how to enter the competition. But if you’re interested, then I’m afraid you’re on your own with that!^^

11 thoughts on “Quick Hit: Advertising a Korean Stewardess School

  1. “We should not be judged by how we appear outside.”

    Isn’t it sort of funny she should say that? After all, as we all know, in this part of the world how they “appear outside” is very much one of the reasons they are hired in the first place.


    1. Possibly, it’s just a mistranslation, and the original Korean doesn’t have the same nuance. Assuming that that is what she said though, then yes and no. I take your point that stewardesses are hired for their appearance, but perhaps — this is a complete guess — once they are hired by Asiana then the company doesn’t take into account other factors like experience, English skills, personality, ability to handle angry passengers, and so on when determining who get promoted, but which they should seeing as every stewardess is already a 9 out of 10 in looks.

      See also this comment by someone that worked there in 1994-’97, who says that the Asiana president primarily chose stewardesses based on how much he liked their legs.


  2. I think that the “personal color image check” thing is this; http://www.thatsyourcolor.com/ I remember seeing this in a korean tv show a few weeks back. Basically what it is is that you can check the tone of your skin and see what colors that fits you better. Then you can choose clothes and hair color accordingly. Since it is popular it probably costs money to go…wherever you go to have that done, and so it is probably a nice carrot for beauty conscious girls to become more interested!


      1. As if clothes shopping wasn’t exhausting enough already … ^^;; I’d say just go for the color you like the most, that is probably “your best color”. ;) (really like your blog btw! Gives answers to questions I didn’t even know that I had!!)


        1. Thanks, but I’d have liked to have something like the color thing when I was a student. Without it, I bought a lot of white clothes (can’t remember why – my favorite color is red!), not realizing until years and thousands of dollars later that they just drained too much color from my face (am really jealous of Korean guys in this respect, whom I think white shirts generally look good on).


  3. Slightly off-topic, but it’s interesting that in spite of protestations about sexist hiring policies or an unfair focus on the young and beautiful, Asian airlines are generally doing something right. The service experience on these airlines consistently outranks that on US and Canadian airlines for a number of reasons, airlines that aren’t, um, as concerned with age, appearance, or demeanor. There’s something to be said for making a flight attendant a desirable position. It is customer service, after all.


    1. Until November 2010, I don’t think I’d ever traveled on a North American airline. But I knew of the stewardess’s reputation, so I expected the worst when I finally did start flying with them. To my surprise though, but for the one slightly gruff one the one time they were all perfectly fine, although I’d have to admit that their girth meant that they would seriously be just as a much an impediment as an asset if we all had to exit the plan quickly.

      Which is not to say that people who have had much worse experiences than me are just exaggerating of course. But, assuming both are equally friendly, then I’d always much prefer an older, much more experienced, plain-looking stewardess than a young attractive one.

      (Disclaimer: I’ve never understood some guys’ fetish for stewardesses, as I think their uniforms and hairstyles etc. make them less attractive than they would be if they dressed normally)

      Anyway, I’m not saying that you necessarily disagree with any of that…I’m just saying. Why is service so superior on Asian airlines then? In the Korean case at least, maybe it’s because there are relatively fewer opportunities in the job market for ambitious women that airlines are able to attract a much higher quality of applicants. Like you say, there’s something to be said for making a flight attendant a desirable position, even if that ultimately might not have all that much to do with the airlines themselves.


  4. Yeah, the promotion aspect is another consideration. It’s just I don’t know how much of a leg you have to stand on complaining about looks being important when you trade on your looks to get in in the first place.


  5. Love your posts~! As a Korean female born and raised in Korea for pretty much my entire life (currently I’m living in LA happily married with my White Husband) , your opinions truly represent and reflect what many Korean females face in modern Korean society.
    As mush as other Asian ppl look at us with admiration of being a wealthier, more advanced asian nation with many good looking ppl, in reality the severe gender bias and the unrealistic expectations for young females make many young women to feel less appreciated and constantly subjugated.
    There are so many subtle or very transparent male chauvinistic cues embedded all over media and in every-day life in Korea, however, the sad thing is that many women do not even realize those things bc they are so used to the culture that they are in and simply they do not know any better.
    Moving to the States was an eye-opener for me. Of course I knew American society is much more liberal than S.Korea but I began to truly realize how much of freedom that women in the States have even in the smallest things in life.
    It still bothers me when I take a look at what’s going on in Korean online community.
    They get obsessed with ‘Witch Hunting’ (Yes, they take extreme measure to find and reveal the woman’s profile and condemn them when they think the women are not behaving properly in public..but as we all know they have indefinite tolerance for male’s wrongdoing) many Korean males openly have discussions on internet (since we have world’s highest internet users population for its size) about how to get rid of ‘Yankees (양키놈 means any ‘white males’) in Korea and to rant about how Korean females are the worst mankind in the world (according to their logic)and they go after particularly the girls that date White guys and label them as whores and white guys as rapist.
    Ppl may say that this is just my thinking of S.Korea but if I was raised almost my entire life in Korea and still have all my family members and friends over there (20 yrs in Korea and about 10 in the States) thus I think I have a really good idea about how Korean society really is.
    I think your postings would be very helpful and educational for many young and naïve Korean females to see Korean society’s sexism in a deeper perspective.


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