A Complete Guide To 13 Korean Beauty Standards

South Korean pop stars like Kim Ji-soo (Blackpink), Irene (Red Velvet), Jin (BTS), and South Korean actresses such as Kim Tae-hee, Shin Min-ah, and Jun Ji-Hyun are some of the most admired South Korean stars solely because of their looks. What do they all have in common? They fit in the Korean beauty standards.

This is one reason why many Koreans constantly try different skincare and beauty products, and other Asians even travel to South Korea for special cosmetic surgeries! Learn Korean beauty standards here!

What Are The Basic Korean Beauty Standards?

Korean beauty standards prioritize having a small v-shaped face, fair skin, symmetrical eyebrows, a slim body, and double eyelids. Altogether, these features create a more innocent, young look.

But where did this Korean beauty standard start, and how does it differ from Western beauty standards? Find out the answers to these questions and more by reading on!

Beauty Standards: Korean Culture VS Western Culture

South Korea is one of the Asian countries that has developed its beauty standard and managed to influence different countries. These standards are different from the Western beauty standard usually seen in international magazines, movies, and advertisements. The ideal image of a woman is different across cultures and societies. But today, we will focus only on the difference between Western and Korean beauty standards.

Both cultures have different views on how a woman should look. One of the similarities between the two cultures is female icons control beauty standards.

Western Beauty Standards

In the Western world, beauty standards are always evolving. As the years and generations go by, beauty standards change. Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, and Jacqueline Kennedy were considered “icons” of beauty during the old days. Now, we can’t deny that the Kardashians control the beauty standards of the Western world.

Once Kylie Jenner debuted, many young girls followed her. Nowadays, a slim waist, plump lips, large butts, and breasts are the critical body features to fit in the definition of female beauty in the Western world. Most of the females in this generation follow this even if it means undergoing surgeries and enhancements.

Korean beauty standards areumdaun

Korean Beauty Standards

아름다운 (Areumdaun)- Beautiful

Compared to other cultures, South Korea has stringent beauty standards for South Korean women and South Korean men. So, what are the male and female beauty standards in Korea? Most of them have double eyelids, v-shaped jaws, small faces, flawless white skin, and slim bodies. In short, these standards push in an innocent look.

The Korean beauty industry is active because of this strict cultural beauty standard. They have endless innovations in beauty trends and Korean beauty products that can enhance one’s appearance. This is also why South Korea is known for its extensive skincare and makeup brands. You’ll see a lot of Korean women and men performing extensive skincare regimes in K-dramas or vlogs.

Summary: Korean Beauty Standards VS Western Beauty Standards

Body sizeslim waist with large breasts and butts – slim body shapeslim body shape
Facial Featuresthin nose with plump lips and doe-like eyessmall v-shaped face, double eyelids, high bridged pointed nose, and plump lips
Skin Complexionbronzed or tan skinfair and pale skin or almost translucent in appearance

History Of Korean Beauty Standards

korean girl

Many people, especially young girls who have always been fans of Korean culture, want to fit the Korean beauty standards. But do you ever wonder when did it all start? Do these standards for young Korean girls exist during ancient times? Let’s discover where it all started.

Joseon Dynasty

During this era, Korean beauty standards were linked to Confucian philosophy. It means that purity and beauty ideals were connected with each other. The beauty standard during the Joseon Dynasty was related to clear, bright skin, but it’s more complicated than you think.

Ancient Koreans believed that a beautiful soul only lives in a beautiful body. In short, you should be beautiful inside and out. During those times, being a beautiful woman also meant being a filial daughter, a good wife to your husband, or a dedicated mother to your children.

They also have this Confucian philosophy called Qi, which is a vital force behind every living identity. They believed that this vital force was passed down through generations, so they needed to preserve the body’s original state of purity. This means no cutting and dying hair and no putting a large number of cosmetics while maintaining fair and translucent skin.

Japanese Colonization

After the Joseon Era, the next huge change in Korean beauty standards was during the Japanese colonization. This brought different beauty products from Japan and Western countries. Western beauty standards were also introduced, which has changed the whole Korean beauty standards.

Modern Times

The K-pop and K-drama industries have influenced Korean beauty standards during these modern times. K-pop idols and actresses have been the icon of beauty. Being beautiful in modern times means having a small v-shaped face, a pointed nose, double eyelids, big eyes, fair and flawless skin, and slim body features.

But, Korean beauty standards, just like Western, are evolving. In fact, many Korean idols, especially cherished female celebrities such as Jennie Kim, Hwasa, and Tzuyu, are breaking Korean beauty standards. Even South Korean men have been breaking these standards.

K-pop Idols Fitting Korean Beauty Standards

K-pop idols are known for their talents, but they admire another thing from them is how they look. These idols are considered icons in terms of beauty standards and fashion. Here are some of the K-pop idols who are fitting the Korean beauty standards:

  1. Jisoo (BLACKPINK)
  2. Jin (BTS)
  3. Nayeon (Twice)
  4. Eunwoo (ASTRO)
  5. Irene (Red Velvet)
  6. Jaehyun (NCT)

K-pop Idols Breaking The Korean Beauty Standards

While many people are trying to fit the Korean beauty standards, some people are breaking the Korean beauty standards and adhering to their beauty standards. Here are some of those K-pop idols who are flaunting their own beauty standards:

  1. Jennie Kim (BLACKPINK)
  2. Hwasa (Mamamoo)
  3. Lee Yong-bok / Felix (Stray Kids)
  4. Park Soo-young /Joy (Red Velvet)
  5. Yeji (Itzy)
  6. Tzuyu (Twice)
  7. Doyeon (WJMK)
  8. Nayeon (Twice)

What Are The Female Beauty Standards In Korea?

beautiful korean girl

작은 얼굴 (Jag-Eun Eolgul)

English Translation: Small Face

The first standard has a small face. It might not be a glamorous characteristic in Western culture, but it is desirable in Asian countries, especially South Korea. Some said that the explanation behind this is that Asians have small eyes, which makes their face look big enough.

V자형 얼굴 (Vjahyeong Eolgul)

English Translation: V-shaped Face

The following Korean beauty standard has a V-shaped face. It’s part of having a small face, but Korean beauty standards require a V-shaped face. This is a face having unpronounced jawlines and a pointy chin. Since having a small face is beautiful in South Korea, there are many facial bone contouring surgeries that you can undergo to achieve and flatter facial bone structure.

Koreans have also invented chin straps, jawline sheet masks, and massaging roles, among other beauty products. Well, we can’t deny that South Korea is one of the biggest cosmetic markets in the world so, it’s not surprising that they have all these sorts of products.

하얀 도자기 피부 (Hayan Dojagi Pibu) Or 창백한 피부 (Changbaekhan Pibu)

English Translation: Porcelain White Skin Or Pale Skin

One of the most prominent Korean beauty ideals is having pale and flawless skin. If the Western beauty standards favor tan or bronzed skin, South Koreans favor having a porcelain white skin tone. This standard already existed during the ancient Korean era. This standard is deeply rooted in Asian cultures, too.

This Korean beauty standard began in the royal era when having flawless white skin was a social class identification. In the past, Koreans having dark skin color were associated with people who worked in agriculture or other intensive labor jobs. So, people with pale skin belonged to the aristocracy or people who were free from labor.

뾰족한 코 (Ppyojokhan Ko)

English Translation: Pointed Nose

A small pointy nose is another sophisticated feature that Korean beauty standards require. There are many surgeries or procedures that you can do to achieve this, like Rhinoplasty or nose job. Interestingly, having a big nose was a desirable characteristic during the past centuries, but not now. Having a small pointy nose matches having a small face.

큰 눈 (Keun Nun)

English Translation: Big Eyes

South Koreans resort to a youthful and innocent look. Part of achieving this look is having big eyes. It is also referred to as having doe eyes. Koreans usually undergo surgeries to achieve this look. Aside from double eyelid surgery, this other popular procedure involves the injection of fat or filler under the eyes. As a result, it will look like the natural pocket of fat that appears when we smile. Some of the Korean celebrities that have big eyes are Yuna (ITZY), Jihyo (TWICE), Lisa (BLACKPINK), Jisoo (Lovelyz), and Minju (IZ*ONE).

korean woman

쌍꺼풀 (Ssangkkeopul)

English Translation: Double Eyelids

One of the most popular Korean beauty standards that every Korean fan knows is having double eyelids. Most Koreans were born with monolids, so to achieve these Korean beauty standards, they undergo surgeries such as “double eyelid surgery.” There’s a surgery called East Asian blepharoplasty(double eyelid surgery), which is a procedure that aims to create upper eyelids with a crease.

일자 눈썹 (Ilja Nunsseob)

English Translation: Straight Eyebrows

Western has this “eyebrows on fleek” look that people dig in. But in Korean beauty standards, having straight eyebrows is a desirable feature. This is another way to maintain a youthful, innocent look.

통통한 입술 (Tongtonghan Ibsul)

English Translation: Plump Lips

During the old times, having thin lips was the Korean biological beauty standard, but nowadays, having plump lips or heart-shaped lips 하트 모양 입술 (hateu moyang ibsul) is considered admirable. The lower lip should be plumper than the upper one. But what makes it more complicated is that the lip line should face upward when smiling. This facial feature mostly requires procedures such as adding lip fillers.

가지런한 치아 (Gajireonhan Chia)

English Translation: Aligned Teeth

Having aligned teeth is also another Korean beauty standard that Koreans follow. This is the reason why many Koreans wore braces when they were young. Having braces when you are old is not desirable in Korea. To fully achieve the youthful, innocent look, having aligned teeth is perfect, especially when you smile.

날씬한 몸매 (Nalssinhan Mommae)

English Translation: Slim Figure

Contrary to the curvy body of the Western beauty standards, South Koreans prefer slim figures. You can rarely see Korean idols and celebrities having curvy bodies. Even Korean males maintain a slim figure to adhere to male beauty standards. Fun fact: South Korea is one of the countries with the lowest obesity rate despite the number of sumptuous food available.

Most South Koreans, especially celebrities and idols, are on a strict diet to maintain a slim figure. People admire these K-pop stars for maintaining such figures, but behind that amazing body is a strict diet and rules that make them struggle. This is not new to the Korean music industry. Idols suffer from eating disorders and other health problems just to maintain this figure.

There are also procedures and surgeries that Koreans undergo just to maintain a slim body shape. To name some, we have liposuction, fat burning, injections, and popping dieting pills. These are the most common things to reduce weight and body volume.

직각 어깨 라인 (Jiggag Eokkae Lain) Or 일자 어깨 라인 (Ilja Eokkae Lain)

English Translation: 90 Degree Shoulder Line Or Straight Shoulder Line

One perfect example of a Korean idol with a straight shoulder line or 90-degree shoulder line is Jennie Kim of Blackpink. This is considered a desirable characteristic to fit the Korean beauty standards.

긴 다리 (Gin Dari)

English Translation: Long Legs

Aside from the slender facial features and slim body, having long legs is desirable in South Korea. Your legs should be longer than your upper body length. They have this thing called an “8-headed body figure”. This means that your face length times eight should be the total size of your body. This is the ideal size of a body in Korean beauty standards.

허벅지 틈 (Heobeogji Teum)

English Translation: Thigh Gap

The last feature in Korean beauty standards for women has a thigh gap. When standing straight with feet touching, some persons have a thigh gap, which is a space between their inner thighs. This is a beauty standard established during the 21st century. To have a thigh gap, there are lots of exercises that you can do, and it’s all available on Youtube. Of course, there are also different operations and procedures to fit this standard.

South Korea: Plastic Surgery Capital Of The World?

Aside from the K-pop industry, K-drama, and cosmetics, South Korea is also known to be the world’s Plastic Surgery Capital. Because of the strict Korean beauty standards, many Korean women, even men, consider undergoing plastic surgery. Many people think that 90% of Koreans have undergone plastic surgery, but it’s absolutely not true, although South Korea has the highest rate of plastic surgeries per capita in the world.

According to a study entitled “Beliefs and Trends Of Aesthetic Surgery In South Korean Young Adults,” external appearance is considered a huge factor in someone’s professional achievements and interpersonal relationships. The rigid Korean beauty standards and the negative effect of lookism push South Koreans to undergo different kinds of surgeries to enhance their physical appearance.

South Koreans invested in innovations and the development of the Korean beauty industry. Because of this, people from different parts of the world are going to South Korea to undergo medical procedures, which has a huge impact on the Korean government. It brings social and economic advancement to the country.

Because of the availability of different medical procedures and treatments in South Korea, they have gained the title of “Plastic Surgery Capital Of The World.” There are a lot of videos and articles that you can find online about this. But, these beauty ideals that Koreans try to achieve using plastic surgeries are deeply rooted in their long-standing Korean beauty standards. It does not just exist out of nowhere.

What Is The Effect Of These Korean Beauty Standards?

If you’re in South Korea and are bombarded with all the pictures, ads, and people who constantly say that you’re physically unattractive, this might affect you mentally. You will start believing them and take those words as truth. Because of this societal pressure, you will have this desire to belong, and you’ll do whatever it takes to look beautiful.

With the rigid Korean beauty standards, there are lots of negative effects it brings to people. Yes, we can see how people admire these celebrities and K-pop idols based on their looks. They were even given a chance to represent Korean beauty in the world through international magazines and fashion shows. But we can’t still deny that these Korean beauty standards are taking a toll on many Koreans, especially the younger generations.

One of these effects is lookism. It is prejudice or discrimination against people who are considered physically unattractive. Judging people based on their physical appearance can lower one’s self-esteem, which can later cause different mental health problems, such as depression and self-hatred. Some people are encouraged to improve their physical appearance by going on a crazy diet or spending hours applying makeup. But the worst thing is they are pushed to undergo plastic surgery which can be really dangerous.

In South Korea, having plastic surgery is not stigmatized. In fact, it is almost normal to grant this during graduation, so it’s normal for them. There are apps in South Korea where you can select a hospital you can go to for plastic surgery. To give you an idea, Gangnam is the most popular spot for plastic surgeries if you have heard about the word “Gangnam Unnie,” which refers to a Korean girl who has undergone lots of plastic surgery.

According to a study, the common reason why South Koreans are pursuing plastic surgery is personal dissatisfaction with their external appearance. This is followed by parental and other people’s influence and employment or professional factor. This is why people shouldn’t judge those who undergo plastic surgeries because they all have their reasons.

Plastic surgery in South Korea is such a big industry that’s why it’s quite inevitable for some people, especially if they have the means and money to do so. Judging someone based on their physical appearance will not do you any good. It will never make you look even better. The important thing is that you’re happy and comfortable expressing yourself.

Korean Vocabulary About Cosmetic Surgeries

English TranslationHangul (Korean)RomanizationSound
breast surgery가슴성형ga-seum-seong-hyeong
baby face동안dong an
contouring윤곽yun gwak
chin surgery or mentoplasty양약수술yang-ag susul
double eyelid surgery쌍꺼풀 수술ssangkkeopul susul
dark circle다크서클da keu sseo keul
fat graft지방이식ji bang-i sig
facial안면an myeon
facial contouring안면윤곽anmyeon-yungwag
dermatology피부과pi bu gwa
procedure시술si sul
plastic surgery/cosmetic surgery성형seong hyeong
reoperation재수술jae su sul
cheo jin
surgery수술su sul
skin피부pi bu
wrinkle주름ju leum

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