For S. Korean men, makeup a foundation for success


In The Associated Press today. Please see here if you would like a fuller explanation of my comments in it though — naturally, author Foster Klug had to miss out a great deal of what was discussed in our interview!

Update: By popular demand, here is the quintessential kkotminam commercial, from 2003:

The black-haired man is now retired soccer player Ahn Jung-hwan (안정환), the blonde actor Kim Jae-won (김재원).

5 thoughts on “For S. Korean men, makeup a foundation for success

  1. James, you seemed to have missed an important item of demography: the surplus of males in Korean society is now about 500 000 between the ages of 20 and 50.

    “The world, in truth, is a wedding.” Erving Goffman.

    But wedding whom? The proposition that effeminate characters in Japanese media have increased the use of male beauty products in Korea surely implies that Japan (with a population more than double that of Korea) should have a male beauty product consumption of about 2 billion dollars.

    “Don’t call me Shirley” jokes welcome.


    1. Actually, I couldn’t agree more: as I explained here in 2008 (well, explain: I’m belatedly giving it an ongoing rewrite/much-needed update as I type this), I think the influence of Japanese yaoi manga behind the kkotminam phenomenon was very important, but that it also tends to get stressed to the exclusion of all other factors.

      About the surplus of men though, it’s my understanding that it’s a pretty recent phenomenon as all the extra boys born in the early-1990s come of age. That’s not to say that it isn’t socially-significant now though, not least in resentment against foreign male – Korean female pairings and a increasing backlash against women’s perceived increased financial and political power over the 2000s. But a decade ago, when kkotminams first started appearing? I don’t think the gender gap was big enough to have had much of an effect on that, although I’m happy to proven wrong if birth statistics show otherwise.


    2. Although I haven’t been able to track down figures yet, there is a very large market for male beauty products in Japan. Every minikonbini carries foundation/lotion for men, for example.


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