Extreme Korean Beauty Standards

Today, as you scroll through social media, whether it is TikTok or Instagram, you will see countless posts and videos of girls showing off their slim figure and perfect side profile. Then, you will not be able to help but think to yourself, “I wish I could look more like them,” or question why you are not as pretty as they are. 

Today, in order to be considered conventionally “beautiful,” women are expected to meet many outrageous beauty standards. With the widespread use of social media, the influence that beauty standards have on young girls these days has been exacerbated, leading to insecurity and thus low self-esteem. According to a poll by the University of Michigan Health, approximately two-thirds of parents claim that their child is insecure about some feature of their appearance. While they should be worrying about other important aspects of their life, many teenagers these days are too caught up in how attractive they look to outsiders. 

South Korea is known to be one of the countries with the most extreme beauty standards. Women there would often compete with one another to see who has the biggest eyes, smallest face, or palest skin. Such beauty standards account for why South Korea has the highest rates of plastic surgery globally, according to the Undergraduate Women in Economics at the Berkeley University. When girls turn 18, it is common for them to be given a trip to the plastic surgeon by their parents. Over time, plastic surgery on teenagers has become normalized. 

These beauty standards are only aggravated by the K-Pop industry. As of now, most people would already be familiar with K-Pop as it has become increasingly popular in recent years, even gaining international recognition. However, these K-Pop idols have also played a part in setting the absurd beauty standards in South Korea. Almost every female K-Pop idol has the perfect appearance that fits the Korean beauty standards – clear and pale skin, slim body, and small face – because they would be severely criticized if they do not. The Korean netizens would bash them for gaining weight or having plastic surgery as they value natural beauty over anything.

I am La Le Quynh Anh, a 13-year-old girl, borned and living in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. At the age of 10, I first learned about gender inequality when I read a newspaper article about a woman who was terribly beaten up by her husband during their quarrel. I was frustrated by how some people are not able to control their anger. However, I grew more furious reading the hate comments not towards the husband but rather the wife for being “annoying.” Since then, I started noticing and paid more attention to the problems concerning gender inequality around me. I love my country but I have to admit that sexism is still a huge problem here. In Vietnam, men still have the most power in the family and you would rarely hear of a woman who worked in the government. But on the bright side, changes are slowly happening and I also want to help contribute to the fight against gender inequality. Like Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Therefore, I want to work together with girls and women worldwide to make a difference in the world. And I hope that through SHEQUALITY, not only my voice but also other women’s voices will be heard to a wide range of audience.