Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Korean Culture: Beauty Standards

 "There is only one definition of beauty here, and that is having wide eyes, pale skin, no fat, and looking perfect all of the time."
- Sharon from Life After Cubes

From all I've read and heard, she is absolutely right.  During my first phone conversation with Emily (who was about to go back to Korea for another year to teach), I was told that, if I were nice and pretty, I'd have no problem getting a job.  I was told that, if I were blond, I could confidently ask for a higher salary.  I was told that the students had no problem telling female teachers what they thought of how she looked.

I know that we in the West have high, nearly unattainable standards of beauty, but, if you can imagine, the Koreans have tighter standards.  And, as Sharon says, "Koreans openly admit to their country’s hyper-obsession with beauty. A few Koreans have told me that if their daughters were not deemed 'pretty' by society’s standards, they would encourage them to get plastic surgery."

One thing I hadn't realized until reading Sharon's post was that this entire culture is pushing its young girls to look like they are from a different culture instead of encouraging them to embrace what they already look like.  I'm having a hard time sympathizing because my parents never told me I should like something else.  Yes, culture has enforced and reinforced that women should be thin and flawless (I am thankful for the new-ish direction toward women looking healthy and fit rather than just skinny.), but my mind's having trouble making the connections with a different culture's beauty being the goal.

One of the things I'm most excited about is building relationships with the students.  I'll most likely be with preschool children and some elementary, and they are young yet, but I hope that I can be a positive influence of confidence building and... I just hope I can help.

For further reading
From Chris in Korea - the body proportions the girls are encouraged to achieve
From Life After Cubes - the plastic surgery the girls are encouraged to get (This highly recommended post was the one that inspired my post here.)

Ad for a Noodle Diet
via The Grand Narrative
Ad for a diet for legs
via The Grand Narrative
This is Girls Generation, a 9-member K-Pop singing group ready to display the idea Korea beauty.
(P.s. I think 9 is a big number, too.  If you care to see how awkward it is when 9 similarly-shaped girls try to be cute and innocent while at the same time still suggestive, here's one of their hit songs, "Oh!")

1 comment:

  1. My word, that is so sad. The insane pressure that their society has from every angle, eh? Hopefully you won't go crazy from it when you're out there!


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