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A Complete Guide To 13 Korean Beauty Standards

July 16, 2022

South Korean pop stars like Jisoo (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 of the reasons why many Koreans are constantly trying 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, 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, the beauty standards change. Audrey Hepburn, Manilyn 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 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

Korean Beauty Standards

아름다운 (Areumdaun)- Beautiful

If the Western has the Kardashians, South Korea has their Korean idols. The foundation is still the same, whether it's IU, Taeyeon, or Hyuna. K-pop idols control Korean beauty standards. That's why many South Korean women want to achieve their looks.

Compared to other cultures, South Korea has stringent beauty standards not just for South Korean women but for South Korean Men also. The female Korean beauty standards can easily be seen in their K-drama actresses and K-pop stars. Most of them have double eyelids, v-shaped jaw, flawless white skin, and slim bodies. In short,  Korean beauty standards push in an innocent look.

Since the beauty standards are very strict, some think of them as unrealistic. Many South Koreans have undergone cosmetic surgery like jaw and chin reduction, double eyelid surgery, and liposuction.

The Korean beauty industry is active because of this strict cultural beauty standard. They have endless innovations about 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 performing extensive skincare regimes in K-dramas, vlogs, and others.

Summary: Korean Beauty Standards VS Western Beauty Standards

Body sizeslim waist with a large breast and butts - slim body shapeslim body shape
Facial Featuresthin nose with plump lips and doe-like eyessmall v-shaped face, double eyelid, 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

History Of Korean Beauty Standards

Many people, especially young girls who have always been a fan of Korean culture, want to fit in 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 are connected with each other. The beauty standard during the Joseon Dynasty has 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 of hair, no putting a large number of cosmetics, and no maintaining fair 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. The Western beauty standards were also introduced, which has changed the whole Koren beauty standards.

Modern Times

The K-pop industry and K-drama industry 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, pointed nose, double eyelid, big eyes, fair and flawless skin, and slim body features.

But, Korean beauty standards, just like Western, are evolving. In fact, there are many Korean idols especially cherished female celebrities, who are breaking the Korean beauty standards like Jennie Kim, Hwasa, and Nayeon. Even South Korean men have been breaking this standard.


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. Nana (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. Hwang Yeji (Itzy)
  6. Tzuyu (Twice)
  7. Doyeon (WJMK)
  8. Nayeon (Twice)


Beauty Standards For South Korean Women

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.

도자기 하얀 피부 (Dojagi Hayan Pibu) Or 창백한 피부 (Changbaeghan 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 porcelain white skin tone. This standard already exists during the ancient Korean era. This standard is deeply rooted in Asian cultures.

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 belong to the aristocracy or people working in high-paying jobs.

뾰족한 코 (Ppyojoghan 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).

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 this thing called East Asian blepharoplasty, which is a surgery that aims to create upper eyelids with a crease.

스트레이트 눈썹 (Seuteuleiteu 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 모양의 입술 (hateu moyang-ui 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.

정렬된 치아 (Jeonglyeoldoen 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.

스트레이트 숄더 라인 (Seuteuleiteu Syoldeo Lain)

English Translation: 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 in the Korean beauty standards.

긴 다리 (Gin Dali)

English Translation: Long Legs

Aside from the slender facial features and slim body, having long legs is a desirable characteristic in South Korea. Your legs should be longer than your upper body length. They have this thing called "8 headed body figure" this means that your face length times 8 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.

허벅지 틈 (Heobeogji Teum) - Thigh Gap


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 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 Korea Young Adults," external appearance is considered a huge factor in someone's professional achievements and interpersonal relationships. The rigid Korean beauty standards and 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's a lot of videos and articles that you can find online about this. But, these beauty ideals that Koreans are trying to achieve using plastic surgeries are deeply rooted in their long-standing Korean beauty standards. It does not just exist out of nowhere.


What's 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 admired 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 of people who are considered physically unattractive. Judging people based on their physical appearance can lower one's self-esteem that 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 to 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 hear 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 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 appearances 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

Hangul (Korean)RomanizationEnglish Translation
가슴성형ga-seum-seong-hyeongbreast surgery
배이비 페이스be i bi pe i seubaby face
육곽yun gwakcontouring
양약수술yang-agsusulchin surgery or mentoplasty
쌍꺼풀 수술ssangkkeopul susuldouble eyelid surgery
다크서클da keu seo keuldark circle
지방이식ji bang-i sigfat graft
안면an myeonfacial
안면윤곽anmyeon-yungwagfacial contouring
피부과pi bug wadermatology
수슬법su sul beobprocedure
성형song hyongplastic surgery/cosmetic surgery
재수술jae su sulreoperation
처진cheo jinsagging
수슬su silsurgery
피부pi buskin
주름ju leumwrinkle


Start Learning Korean Now!

Listening to K-pop music and watching K-dramas can help you pick up some Korean words and phrases. Admit that it feels great to know these words by heart without even searching for their meaning on the internet. So, why not start learning Korean now? If you want a fun and engaging way to learn Korean, Ling App is the perfect app for you.

The Ling App will give you the unique language learning experience you desire. With various topics, mini-games, and quizzes, you will enjoy learning. You can learn through translations, audio recordings, and images that you can soon use in talking to chatbots and having conversations. Extensive grammar explanations and blogs about the language are also available to widen your knowledge.

Learning Korean is a great way to channel the inner Korean in you. So, why not start learning Korean with Ling App now and see the wonders it can bring you?



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