Beauty is the Beast: Men also Suffer from South Korea’s Unattainable Standards of Beauty

Even Indian Tigers feel insecure about their appearance in South Korea.
Even Indian Tigers feel insecure about their appearance in South Korea.

“I was aware I was moving to a country where looks mattered. It was just how much looks mattered that was a shock for me.”

By Ripul Sharma

September 13, 2011, was first time I considered moving to a country which was radically different from where I had been, an absolute mystery to me in every way. I was toying with the idea of adventure, and despite all the problems I would face in both oral and written communication; I made a leap of faith and bought a one-way ticket to Seoul, South Korea.

After 625 days, I am still amazed by the roller coaster ride I have experienced.  This journey has been a discovery not only of myself, but also of what the world has to offer. I am in one of the most dynamic countries in the world – a global giant making strides in the frontiers of technology, manufacturing and music.

Despite a largely positive experience here, I am still unable to come to terms with how Koreans focus on my physical appearance.

Korean culture is one where perfection has always been demanded in every field. The same applies to one’s outwardly appearance. I was aware I was moving to a country where looks mattered. It was just how much looks mattered that was a shock for me.

Unlike most of the expat community here, I am deeply embedded in the Korean education system.   Being the only foreign student at my university for almost eight months, while possessing a command of the language, has given me a deeper understanding of Korean culture than many foreigners will experience.

Being of typical Indian looks: characteristics –  a wheatish complexion, broad nose, a little extra sprinkling of hair, and a beer belly – I never thought of myself as a chiseled, Greek god.  But nor did I ever feel that I was on the lower rungs of the beauty scale. That is, until I moved to Korea.

Whether it’s my one-on-one language classes, exchanges with faculty, the staff at my favorite pig-out spot, my conversations with people in Seoul, or drunken people explaining in Hongdae park that I must be handsome, physical appearance is something that comes up at least once a day in my interactions here.

“Ripul, hairy chimpanzee.”

“Ripul, why don’t you go to the gym?”

“You will never get a Korean girlfriend if you don’t lose weight.”

“Korea has creams for making your skin white. You should use them and be handsome.”

“Here is a pamphlet for nose jobs. Many foreign students come here to get those.”

These are some of the common things I hear when I interact with Koreans. While this type of behavior would cause a fight in many cultures, in Korea, it is not considered rude to point these things out. It is considered friendly advice.

Both Korean men and women participate in extreme diets to achieve desired body weight. Plastic surgery is advertised to children and is not considered a taboo. Everyone wants to look like someone else, to the extent that parents encourage their children to be skinny and beautiful, and will help them pay for plastic surgery if they can. Makeup stores are a dime a dozen, and weight-loss pills that can cause lifelong side effects are sold at convenience stores. The entire country is littered with mirrors on apartment doors, lifts and subway station walls. In Seoul, everywhere you go, a trendy appearance and looking good is a must. Boys put on makeup, and girls wear heels to the beach – the list can go on forever.

Those who do not confirm to the Korean standards of beauty are ridiculed, bullied, socially rejected from groups and are viewed as inferior. I have experienced this on more than a few occasions myself, and can only imagine how a 19-year-old would feel to be blamed for something that is beyond their control.

I am not going to rant about how much pressure is put on every aspect of life in Korea. It has been written and spoken about ample number of times in blogging and other media circles here. What I will tell you is that the side effects of not being pretty in this country are not pleasant. I have seen people going to extreme likes saving money for surgeries, surviving on a single egg for an entire day, spending hours in the gym while crying, being depressed, and feeling miserable the whole time because they are not pretty enough.

More often than not, the average pretty girl in class will avoid communicating with me. People will tell me that I don’t look good today, that my sense of style is off, and that my weight should MUST go down. They ask why don’t I use bleach for my skin. Girls at my university ask me if I can introduce them to my “white” friends, while party Invitations often leave me out. The clique of pretty students in class excludes me and a few other average-looking people. Koreans wanting to have their photographs taken with foreigners when I am out with a group will usually hand me the camera while they pose with my better-looking friends. The one time I did ask a Korean girl out, she told me I should loose weight if I wanted to date her. I have a hard time finding clothes here, with some sales people telling me that I am too big directly to my face, when I am a size large in most countries.

This country has provided me with a lot of positive experiences, yet for a society that leads the world in many developed ways, there are a lot of sad statistics that go with them: high depression, growing suicide rates and the extreme amount of plastic surgery per capita. Speaking as someone who is completely an outsider and has fallen in love with the Land of Morning Calm, this probably is the biggest thorn in my side.

Acceptance is the one thing we all crave from our immediate environment. Being an outsider in Korea, you are reminded that you are not accepted every day. From the way you look, to the food, values, language, and art, to the very geography of the country, everything reminds you that you are in a different land. Being constantly reminded that you are not good enough the way you are, has a huge impact on the expat turnover in this country. Most foreigners I know here have complained about this issue ,and feeling frustrated and helpless in this situation causes them to return home. When my course here is done, this will be a determining factor in my decision to remain in or leave Korea for good. It might be heart breaking for me to leave a place I have come to love, but I might do so to avoid to being subjected to more superficial degradation.



Ripul has been living in Korea since October 2011 and is a student of Baking arts in West Coast region of Korea. 23 years of age, He has travelled across India and is enjoying his time between studying and travelling across Korea. He can be reached at or at


37 Comments Add yours

  1. Tyanne says:

    Ripul, thank you for speaking so honestly about such a frustrating and painful experience in Korea. I really appreciate people who are willing to tell the truth about things like this.


  2. Kari Nguyen says:

    Lately, I’ve been reading many blogs about the issue of beauty and plastic surgery in Korea. I too, find myself preening and getting dressed up just to take out the trash, even at 1am. I should mention that I’m Vietnamese-American so I’m considered a waygooken in Korea as well. In the beginning, I was appalled at Korea’s obsession with beauty and plastic surgery but the more I thought about it, the more I’ve come to terms that each country is unique in their own customs, values, beliefs and foreigners should learn to accept that. To put this in perspective, let’s say you live in a certain part of Africa where neck rings are regarded as very beautiful. Let’s say the locals decide that even as a foreigner, you should wear neck rings to make yourself beautiful. Would you be as offended at this point as you are while in Korea? Or let’s say you moved to Mauritania, where super obese women are regarded as the most beautiful and the locals try to fatten you up by feeding you gallons of cow’s milk daily. My point with these examples is that each country has their own way of viewing beauty and as a foreigner, you don’t have to play into them if you don’t like them. Yes, it does suck to be singled out as “not handsome” or “pretty” by Koreans but somewhere in the world, you’re always going to be “not handsome” or “pretty” to the locals.


    1. There’s some truth to what you said Kari, but we are not talking about beauty through customs or tradition. The whole look like a Kpop star is relatively new compared to Korea’s history.

      We are talking about a destructive pursuit of perfection. Improving yourself physically is a personal matter, but when society pushes you to a point to where the pressure to improve yourself becomes self destructive than it is wrong. It is immoral for someone to feel bad because they were born gay, fat, black, bald, or ugly. It is also immoral for people to use culture as an excuse to justify why people feel pressured to use their savings for plastic surgery.


    2. jamasian says:

      Have you been elsewhere that people feel comfortable saying, “You sure are (ugly). Go get (a few neck rings.)” They do that here in Korea. That’s why people start to feel offended and upset. It’s not about respecting our differences. It’s about being shunned when we don’t feel the need to skin lighten, or go under the knife or drop down to a “0” U.S. size. Think carefully about the main complaint these blogs are making.


  3. Ashley Wynn says:

    So thoughtful and so true. It’s a shame that outward appearances matter so much here. There are so many good things about Korea, but you are right; when I leave this country for good, it will probably be because I have had enough of the superficiality and alienation.


  4. thethinkingchef says:

    First, Thanks for taking the time to read and respond to the post. And while I will agree that I dont need to play into their concepts of beauty(And I assure you I don’t. No gym or Whitening Creams or Nose jobs for this guy), this is not a “Yes I am beautiful” thought. I see people actually going through these things everyday, and this most certainly isn’t a part of the Korean culture for a long time. This trend started around 2000( of course to be pretty is a huge part in any culture), but focusing so much on how one looks is chipping away at lots of pillars here. The desire to be pretty has always been there, the NEED to be one is recent here. People get passed up on promotions, Entire savings are spent on that one nose job, and the fact that people have so much to offer despite how they look is almost overlooked every time. While i am in no way having doubts about my appearance or my ability, it is sad for me to see the state of affairs. I dont feel only for those who are affected by this prejudice, but the one’s perpetuating it are also equally sad IMO. it gives one a very shallow output of life, and whatever the way one looks, pretty or not, that is not the ONLY factor that should be used to judge people. What i was trying to say through the article wasn’t that everyone is beautiful or Korea has messed up beauty standards, or that i am being called an ugly duckling. It was to tell that the yardstick they are using to measure what a person is is definitely one that they need to change, as it is not one that is a true reflection of one’s ability.


  5. lost gyopo says:

    I am a Korean that was raised in the States but however just completed the mandatory 2 yr. military service…
    And I am 32, which means I am almost at the point where ALL my Korean friends and family are more concerned about my marriage life than my girlfriend…
    Stay positive and don’t hate ‘us’…
    Even though these Koreans don’t include me in ‘us’…


    1. We don’t hate here! We all love Korea, we just freely express the negative things as well! Congrats with finishing your time, I heard that sucks!!!!!


  6. even as a korean i hate that so much although it was about 12years ago i left. i can’t dare fathom the depth of abnormality plaguing the culture.


  7. Jo says:

    Koreans prefer to choose this path of super economic achievement and change over slow growth and holding on to old ways. Necessary component of the achievement is the hyper focus on results and achievement and competition. If you think there is some way to have the results oriented driven society that drives the success and yet can somehow not have the side effects then by all means you should make some suggestions because lots of people will want to know your secret idea.

    So why focus so much on looks? Because its real. In America lot of people say inner looks is whats important. And belittle people who spend extra on looks. But everyone knows the better looking girl or guy will always get way more opportunities than the ugly duckling. So whats worse? Accepting the fact its a real or saying inner beauty is what important only when convenient?

    Who are we/you to say they are wrong to choose that path? If the hiring managers get 200 applicants for the one position and top 50 candidates have the same credentials then if they chose the better looking person are they doing something wrong? If people prefer better looking people on TV and the infinite variety of media so they get the jobs, then can you really tell the mothers and the candidates looks don’t matter? That its ok to not get those jobs? That they should find happiness getting a job at the third rate company with a third rate boss that treat you like dirt cause he can find another employee to replace you in a heart beat? What are you suggesting they do? Not play the game and rick being broke all the time or worse in debt all their lives?

    Another reason why the writer may have witnessed more conversations about looks more than anything else is that Koreans in general are weak in English and when meeting a foreigner can only comment on looks because they don’t know what else to comment on. In panic search for thinking of something to say looks is the first thing that comes up in their mind.

    The competitive results driven society is why there are so many English teacher jobs in Korea. It is why you get over night delivery of anything on line. It is why you get so fast and high quality medical care at low prices. I could go on about the benefits. Also I could go on about the negatives. But what society does not have its own set of positives and negatives?

    In other parts of the world looks matter less because it is not the hyper results driven society Korea is. But can you really say that Koreans are wrong to put more focus on looks when it is what brings the opportunities in the real world? Is there any hint of hypocrisy or arrogance perhaps in the criticism?

    If you ask the lesser developed world if they would like to super charge their society like Korea and become the economic success Korea has become and told them that the necessary consequence will be the focus on looks and other issues facing Korea do you think they will say no to it? I highly doubt it.


    1. Jo says:

      Looks will matter less when parents of sons and daughters of regular folks can expect a happy life for their children even if they don’t go to the good schools and get good jobs. There are at least 3 different ways in which that can happen:
      1. More jobs are created so instead of employers choose from 100 candidates it becomes a candidate that can choose from 100 companies. To do that government has to figure out a way to keep the large corporations continue to be successful but then spur newer companies and industries to flourish and be competitive in the world. To do that requires people with expertise from overseas and candidates that are strong in English with good understanding of the world.
      2. Greater safety net is provided so people can comfortably live even when the resume is not so stellar. This requires superior government and ngo and involvement by a lot of gifted and giving people. Who will show the way. Who will be the pioneers in a sea void of creativity and conviction and knowledge.
      3. People can find ways to be happy or content with less. Finding happiness in the little things in life. Again this requires a lot of gifted and giving people to show the way through interaction. Unfortunately the trend is in the opposite direction. Instant gratification. Easy to quit. Easy to criticize and unwilling to make compromises and not knowing when to agree to disagree. Disappearing are the days when showing respect for others was a given.


    2. thethinkingchef says:

      “Who are we/you to say they are wrong to choose that path? If the hiring managers get 200 applicants for the one position and top 50 candidates have the same credentials then if they chose the better looking person are they doing something wrong? If people prefer better looking people on TV and the infinite variety of media so they get the jobs, then can you really tell the mothers and the candidates looks don’t matter? That its ok to not get those jobs? That they should find happiness getting a job at the third rate company with a third rate boss that treat you like dirt cause he can find another employee to replace you in a heart beat? What are you suggesting they do? Not play the game and rick being broke all the time or worse in debt all their lives?”
      The fact that you say that either get that nose job to look better, or risk getting a job with a third rate company with a third rate boss that treat you like dirt is an answer to the question you posed.

      And my Korean is pretty good actually. I have discussions about Koreans soaps, history, effects of reunification, President Parks tenure to world event in Koreans with my friends and professors.

      P.S: Stating that other countries aren’t as good as Korea and your “highly doubtful” stance on if other countries would like to be like Korea is more arrogant than any unintended arrogance I might have let through in the article.

      Yes, when you say that every society comes with it’s own set of positives and negatives, I support that wholeheartedly. But


  8. A nicely written article. I teach adult Korean students (college students to working professionals) and hear remarks almost everyday consisting of the words: handsome, beautiful, ugly, tall, fat, big eyes, “BAGL” (Baby Face, Glamorous body — as in men’s ideal physical features of a woman), a high nose, double-eyelids, small face, V-line (the ideal shape of their chins), black skin (as in referring to other regional Asians like Nepalese, Bangladeshi, East Indian, etc.). A lot of those features are attainable only by cosmetic/plastic surgery. Many K-pop stars (an overwhelming amount, I’m sure) have become who they are with surgical procedures. So anyone with rational sense must ask: “What is all of this teaching Korea’s youth?”

    And I also wonder about what you say regarding foreigners who experience such judgment and prejudice and discrimination. Seoul is a world city (er, well, at least we’d like to say it is — to the outside it might seem that way). But it would do Korea well if it seriously addressed recognizing the gay community, embracing the immigrant community, and raising awareness among children that what they say in terms of racial remarks is actually borderline racist. Discouraging foreigners from staying could hurt Korea’s potential in progressing forward. There’s a lot Korea still needs to learn from the world. Its expatriate community can help it as long as foreigners feel welcome.

    I have written my own viewpoints regarding such topics including others in satirical/cynical manner from another American’s perspective. Take a gander if you have time:
    Dear South Korea:
    High Heels in South Korea:


    1. thethinkingchef says:

      I will check out your blogs Paul. New to the blogging world, this was my first post ever. Looking for stuff to read. Thank you for posting this 🙂


      1. Yeah, uh, just be aware that I write from a different perspective than the regular blogger. I take a more cynical — at times, scathing — approach to my accounts of living in South Korea. The impression you get from reading my blog may be that I hate Korea and am absolutely bitter towards anything here. Actually, I see Korea in a much brighter light. I just want to take a more darkly humorous avenue.


  9. Elise says:

    I’m pretty sure having a “beer belly” at 23 is quite unhealthy though.


    1. thethinkingchef says:

      I’ll agree on that. Being a foodie doesn’t help either^^


  10. Kylee says:

    I read your article and agree with a lot of what you said. I’m Korean American and lived in Korea for a semester while going to school in 2006. I’m considered chubby but not many people commented on it. I had a very different experience than you in regards to that. But I have since met and married an Indian man from Belgaum and visiting India and having to go through their version of a wedding ceremony and how I should look was WAY worse than anything anyone ever said to me in Korea. My husband’s family told him I was too fat and then there was the whole ‘marrying an outsider’ issue. They kept telling me to exercise and were so concerned about the way the community would view them now. They got over it when I finally met them and they realized I was lighter skinned then all of them, and I wasn’t SO fat and that I clearly loved their son, but I think before you start complaining about Koreans, you need to acknowledge the fact that Indians are just as focused on appearance and caste etc. as any other culture. In fact I’ve witnessed Indian making fun of dark skinned people or fat people right to their face, and when I told them it was being rude they simply claim that they are stating facts and that it’s not considered rude. And I think people in India would be getting just as much plastic surgery as people in Korea if they had the money.


    1. thethinkingchef says:

      Kylee, Sorry to hear you had a bad experience in India. Yes, , I completely agree with what you said, The common Indian mindset is one which needs to change, especially when it comes to matters of caste and outsiders. I have never been a fan of that, and xenophobia is something that is faced everywhere, and is part of every country.

      But, as I mentioned once earlier, this is not about having idea’s of beauty. There have always been good looking people and the not so good looking one. I clearly stated that I fall in the latter. And my point was not that people here have messed up beauty standards. No. Every culture has their own idea of beauty, and yes if you are not good looking, it will be pointed out in any country, be it India or Korea or any place on earth. My point was that it has taken a rather strong grip on everyday life here. It was pointed out to me that back in India as well that I was chubby and nit the hottest guy around. But that was about it. My personal, Social or Professional life did not suffer from it, nor was i ever “Oh I am so Ugly, I must go to the extreme to be socially accepted” kind of person.

      Korea is a place I dearly love, and I respect all that they have achieved in such a short span of time with such limited resources. We all can take a slice out of their success story and governance model. But yes, right from middle school kids here to adjummas, I think the focus on external appearance is one which should shift. I say so because everyone I see here is pretty much kick ass in a variety if things. College kids here that can make kick ass cakes and other stuff(which is available in only like really high end bakeries in India) is common to every bakery shop here. The point is that most people here are pretty awesome, and yet for them to feel less because of their looks is a sad thing. 🙂

      P.S: A Korean american marring an Indian gives me hope about my own love life in this country 😉 Do lemme know about your experiences in India. Do you have a blog on that? Haven’t read many from an outsiders view about India.


      1. Kylee says:

        I don’t have a blog…I don’t usually comment on stuff online actually, but I thought your piece was interesting. I am on facebook though…can I add you as a friend?

        And I think it’s shitty to make anyone feel less than what they are and it sucks that it happens at all. Whenever I go to Asia it always strikes me as funny how everyone wants to be ‘white’ with more Anglo looking features. And then you take a trip to say, Walmart where the whitest trash people are, and you realize beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder.

        And as for my marriage my husband is still surprised I even agreed to go on that first date with him. He seems to have this concept that people don’t like Indian’s and find them unattractive. We’re the only mixed race couple in both our groups of friends but no one has ever minded. Indian parents find it odd when I show up and are surprised but they get over it. His family is now ok with our marriage and his mom treats me like a daughter. There are definitely culture clashes and religious issues (I’m aethiest and he’s hindu) and the dinner menu is sometimes an issue (he wants curry and I want chapjae) but we get over it. It was hard though in the beginning since he’d make kind of racist comments and not even know it. For example: We were talking about names if we have a kid in the future and he said he was fine naming it a Korean name as long as it didn’t sound all ‘choo chong chinky’ and stuff. And for a while he kept implying that I was Chinese since that is the closest East Asian country to India so everyone assumes I’m Chinese. And in Pune and Belgaum people would just stare at me, assume I was Chinese, and then either be annoyed by me or try to sell me stuff. Of course then I would speak and they’d be REALLY confused since I have an American accent and my husband would have to come over and help since most of the vendors didn’t want to talk to me since I was a woman. That was the most frustrating part I think. I felt like I was invisible in India and I would tell them what I wanted and they would ignore me and keep throwing clothes, jewelry, etc in front of me. But the moment a man told them what I wanted they listened and then only spoke to them. And no matter what country the woman is from you NEVER EVER ignore her when she’s trying to shop for her wedding! I must confess I turned into a bit of a bridezilla, and we had to have 3 different wedding celebrations for all our friends and family in total. So I never got the white wedding like most American girls dream of, and I didn’t get the Korean wedding with the hanbok, but I did get an amazing husband and 2 beautiful sarees that I think weigh as much as me, and the craziest HIndu wedding ceremony that his two brothers had to throw together since we gave them short notice. For two bachelors putting an Indian wedding together in a month they did a pretty good job.

        And don’t worry about your love life no matter what people say. As long as you’re happy and healthy then someone will recognize that and be drawn to you. If Korean girls aren’t doing it for you then I’m sure there are a lot of foreigners there that are either teaching or studying…maybe even working. But please don’t do the arranged marriage root and don’t let your friends and family pressure you into ‘settling’ for someone just because of your age. And maybe think about leaving Korea and coming to the US. It’s a huge mixing pot here and there is a lot of diversity. I think sometimes Korea and Japan tend to isolate themselves and sometimes turn the focus inward and that’s when you get the crazy narcissistic views about appearance, nationalism, etc when you don’t have enough diversity in your population to remind you of everyone’s differences.


  11. Kayt says:

    Well put, Ripul. My husband and I have similar experiences. When that happens, I remind myself that their obsession is to be pitied and that I should enjoy my health and my life without listening to the immature and ridiculous comments. However, what is painful to me is that I see my students, who are beautiful the way they are naturally, and who I care about, become depressed and preoccupied over these bizarre ideals. I’m strong enough to laugh at this “friendly advice,” but my young students are not.


    1. thethinkingchef says:

      I will agree with on that. 🙂


  12. Tim says:

    Jo. I am an American and not only am I offended by your comment. It is not true. Some Americans judge based on looks. Most of us do not.


  13. ironyofexistence says:

    It is quite true for most of the cultures. However, external appearances should not be deterrent or sole cause of somebody’s existence. Good looks are appealing, but the need of the hour for most of the people today is ‘what after looks’? A time will come when all of us will look alike because of the advantage of plastic surgeries and will look for a greater cause to worry and ponder.


  14. Aian Ramos says:

    Wow, really interesting article here…I read somewhere that it’s so common to gift a graduating daughter a nose job or other cosmetic surgery…pretty sad to think that at such a young age she’ll be that concerned about her looks…I think it’s totally a different thing when someone is old enough or at least of legal age to decide whether they wanted something altered with their looks.
    Here in the Philippines, obsession with beauty is starting to corrupt the young generation as well. Sadly, local and international showbizness have a direct influence over that, giving the youth a notion that beauty equals popularity…or value. Your less popular or less important if you’re not ‘pretty’ enough. And by pretty meaning, light-skinned, thin, trimmed nose, and sometimes depending on one’s age, decently-sized breasts for female as well. Nose job and boob job are more common to local showbiz personalities and or socialites, and they are not to brag about it, it’s supposed to be a ‘secret.’ They’re supposed to make it seem like they’re ‘naturally’ pretty, that it’s just the way they are! I think that even adds up to the frustration of the public whose adulation has turned into obsession to be ‘like’ them. That’s the no-so-good reality now, beauty does dictates one’s value. If ever there’s something I’m still thankful about (not pretty sure if it’s a good thing), I don’t think Filipinos will say it to your face (that you’re fat, ugly, etc) and mostly just ignore the fact that you’re not so pretty…For those who would, oftentimes they’ll still try to be gentle about it, haha, choose the wordings maybe! Nonetheless, don’t be surprised, if it will be too obvious though, that the pretty ones are getting more attention that you are. Of course, you’ll encounter a few as well who’d have no problem telling it to your face.


  15. jackie says:

    I agree that the beauty is in the eye of the beholder. However, I think any thing that is too much of can cause danger. Living in Korea and trying to understand the culture of uniformity is different from adopting it. As a person from another country residing here is really depressing for the people are expecting that you would prefer ” to be like them” than accepting for your uniqueness. It is like you have have to forget who you really believe you are and conform with this metamorphosis this society expects you to do to belong.
    Recently in a sports center where my family planned swim, I was suddenly stopped by a middle aged lady telling me that I have to take all off my swimsuit and take shower before I go in the swimming area. I said I understood what she said. But at that time I was not planning to swim right away but need to go to swimming area to look for my husband and child. Then she stopped me again. I was kind a irritated for I felt like a I am considered stupid that I did not understand. So I raised my voice a little bit and spoke firmly in her language using honorific terms telling her my intentions. Then I left. I just hate it when she spoke to me like I’m stupid and tell me things with her loud voice in front of many people. Then so, somehow I did follow the rule, when you are in Rome do what the Romans do. However, I did not want to forget who the real me by keeping my good manner by using polite terms 😉


  16. Andre M says:

    Well, you’re not in gypsyland. It is obvious things would be different. Probably you can go on, be gone and such. Let koreans suffer in korea and you just be gone, simple enough concept don’t you think?


  17. Elena says:

    I dont really get it though… What exactly would one have to look like in korea to be viewed as pretty? The way i see it, if people are shallow like that, you can look as “perfect” as you want and they’d still find something to complain about – even if its because of selfish reasons, right??. There is a korean movie I watched a few days ago, it was about a Model who gained weight because the guy she was in love with, the photographer, liked ‘fat women’ (if american ppl saw what that photographer considered fat, they’d laugh). The Model was originally 1.77 m tall and weight 48 kg (where i come from, theyd bring you to a hospital because theyd think your dangerously anorexic) she went up to 72 kg and called herself fat and was also called fat…Thats like… A BMI of 22 or so, a totally normal and healthy weight. I think that says it all.

    Im actually quite fearful reading all of these articles, im planning to go to korea next year and i heard they wouldn’t treat white girls so bad, but i have a feeling they’ll be offensive to all people who arent korean in first place…. Its not that im scared of the people but i actually really like the korean culture, i dont want to not-like-it anymore because of bad experiences….


  18. Lexi says:

    I love Korean culture as well, and although I have never lived in South Korea (but would love to), I vacation there every year. As an African American woman, I am often told by both Korean men and women that I am “pretty” and “beautiful.” People always want to talk to me and touch my hair (I have very fine dreadlocks). My uniqueness is what draws them to me, and also the fact that I am from the U.S. helps too. I met a handsome Korean man during my last visit to Seoul and he posted a picture of himself and me online. One of his female friends commented that I was pretty and “small.” So, even though race and skin color play a role in their perception of beauty, it is not all encompassing (i.e. a preference for white skin or blond hair for foreigners). They also look at the size of your face and facial features (the smaller the better, except for the eyes). And I have brown skin btw; as an Indian fellow I met there from Sri Lanka exclaimed, “You have complexion like Barack Obama.” ^^ I have heard stories about Koreans being very blunt about pointing out “imperfections” in foreigners, but thankfully, I have not experienced it (yet). And like you, I love Korea despite it’s flaws; every country has them. My beef is with the super racist, hateful, really mean taxi / bus drivers; but that is another topic altogether.


  19. edward says:

    my south korean friend has been living 10 years outside S. Korea. he’s very different with the typical korean. he’s rough, cool, unemotional, and a very nice guy. however he probably is quite embarrassed with the male korean stereotypes and korean drama. as an ethnic chinese, the image of korean male beauty is quite appealing too me because we’re kinda similar. however after some readings here and there, I have hard time to accept it as new male beauty standard.


  20. filia_san says:

    This is perhaps the main reason why I would never visit South Korea, even if I had the chance. I already have a low enough opinion of myself.


    1. thatwildcard says:

      ikr? At first when I was planning a tour across Asia, Korea was right behind Japan but now I have to scratch it out. x) Comments about appearance hurt the most because you can’t do anything to change it…


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