K-Pop Beauty Standards- October 28th

Sabrina Gradolf  editor(Switzerland) 

If one were to open a Korean magazine, the likelihood seeing a curvy, yet underweight, electronically modified model is highly probable. Not surprising as the booming force that drives the entertainment industry in Korea, known as K-pop, is personified by thin women who undergo plastic surgery to attain a less characteristically Asian, and more American looking body and face. Korean women frequently identify American models that flaunt thin yet curvy, hourglass figures as their ideal appearance rarity in naturally occurring female bodies.

Most studies in print that investigate the media’s impact on body image explore thinness of, more often than not, women in media and how lauded thinness influences the targeted audience. While thinness is idealized in Korea, this particular culture stresses the importance of maintaining an ideal, collective appearance.The number of women that desire to achieve Korea’s body ideal reached new summits over the course of the past decade. When members of a given culture fall short of an idea, it promotes proliferous body image dissatisfaction. Body image dissatisfaction drives the desire in Korean women to change their bodies. 

Among several identified compensatory behaviors, plastic surgery in Korea is becoming increasingly popularity due to the desire to achieve a nun natural occurring ideal, as opposed to solely the thin. In almost all cultures, the expectation for women is to be beautiful. However, the specifics of each culture’s ideal body are shaped as they develop their own unique set of qualities, they deem admirable. Korean culture has its own set of societal “rules” that define beauty, its own definition of physical attractiveness, and its own set of body ideals, which shape its collective body image. Prior to discussing how Korean pop culture influences ideals, the definition of Korea’s ideals is necessary. An ideal body in Korea, as in many other cultures, is multi-faceted. It engages the amount of body fat, shape, and the prominence of different facial features.

Koreans, mainly females, have adopted an “alphabetization” of body shapes. Women’s figures and traits conform to the shapes of letters in the English alphabet and are used to assess a body. The “S-line” is defined as ample breasts and buttocks when viewed from the side. Longlegs and arms that are connected by a narrow waist characterize the “X-line”. In addition, several self-reported Korean blogs indicated the increasing popularity of a slender, yet athletically aesthetic X-line.

A woman’s face with slim cheeks and a pointed and defined chin is considered the “V-line”. Facial features also have specific requirements in order to be deemed culturally ideal. In addition to a small, V-shaped face, the face must be symmetrical, and the jaw must not protrude either forward or laterally. Other treasured features include pale skin and large eyes with a double eyelid.

While the West significantly influences K-pop, and thus Korean culture, the globalized trend of American themes to Korea is a two-way street; K-pop is quickly spreading to the rest of the world. South Korean K-Pop artist, PSY dominated global pop radio with his single, “Gangnam Style.” The song is accompanied by a dance featured in the music video to which the youth rapidly took a liking. The music video features Korean men and women with ideal appearances. Psy’s Western success is one of many global K-pop success stories. K-pop’s global movement is made possible mainly due to the use of a local social networking service (SNS) to a global SNS has boomeranged K-pop into the global market.


Sabrina Gradolf  editor(Switzerland)