Beauty standards in Korea is a familiar topic of conversation. We hear a lot about the prevalence of plastic surgery, mainstream make-up and fashion, and overall fairly exclusionary standards for people’s bodies and appearances. However, alternative standards of beauty are becoming more and more embraced in Korean society, particularly by the younger generations.
Here are three examples of the diversity of Korean beauty standards:
Tattoos and piercings
You may already have seen this series by Grace Neutral from i-D exploring Korea’s illegal tattoo industry. But the popularity of tattoos (and also piercings, alternative hairstyles and fashions etc.) isn’t all as underground as is shown in these videos. Younger generations are experimenting more and more with alternative beauty standards (as anyone who visits Hongdae can see) and perceptions are changing quickly.
Many visitors to Korea worry that the emphasis on thin = beautiful in Korean media will affect Korean people’s opinions of them. However, there is far more diversity of body size and shape in Korea than mainstream media makes it seem, and people are embracing body positivity and their natural, healthy bodies. Plus-size models are speaking openly about body positivity and real people openly critique the emphasis on thinness in media.
Even in a society which emphasises female beauty as consisting of being small, thin, and even physically or emotionally weak, female bodybuilding is growing in popularity and images of female beauty based on strength are being celebrated.
Whilst mainstream beauty standards in Korea are pervasive, there is of course a diverse range of beauty amongst real people in Korea and those differences are becoming more and more celebrated.