The beauty standards in Korea have been known to be extremely strict, with most Korean women aspiring to be both tall and thin.
In fact, many people have even referred to the standard of beauty in Korea as unrealistic, as the ideal height of 162 cm (approximately 5 feet and 4 inches) and weight of 42 kg (about 93 pounds) is considered quite underweight and possibly dangerously unhealthy.
Nevertheless, these “ideal” proportions are what Korean women aspire to, and with the majority of idols being extremely thin and amazingly pretty, a community thread has highlighted the danger of idols being “body image” role models for Asian girls around the world.
“A looooot of my body image issues started after I began following K-Pop more closely. I’m East Asian and in my 20s and I never had these issues in my more teenage years. I feel like it may be because I’m in North America and there just weren’t that many celebrities that looked even vaguely like me so I didn’t relate to them as much or want to look like them.” — Original Poster
The OP said that when they started following K-Pop groups last year, they were at their highest weight and believes one of the reasons they felt the need to “extreme diet” was due to K-Pop.
Other international fans began sharing their stories of how K-Pop has actually made them feel worse about their own body image and beauty.
- “Unfortunately Kpop’s made me hate the way my face looks. I follow a lot of girl groups and when a majority of them have round faces and small chins it really makes me hate my long face and long chin. On the other hand, I’ve been putting more effort into clothes because of all this inspiration I get from the girl groups’ live performances and airport photos!”
- “It is incredibly difficult to not feel inadequate when the Kpop idols we see are often winners of a genetic lottery in the first place and then having surgery themselves to improve upon perfection.”
- “I think it has negatively impacted my perception of my body type some. I really enjoy certain fashion trends that are more prevalent in South Korea than in America (seriously, the skirt game in America has been DISMAL lately), but I have definitely had some issues fitting into clothes due to, well, mostly my bottom half.”
- “I think this is something across a lot of cultures though – the ideal self vs the reality. With how easy it is to subtly alter images on instagram/Snapchat etc it must be hard to constantly remind yourself that it’s an edited version of reality.”
Netizens commented that while K-Pop idols may be an inspiration for them to lose weight, they keep idols’s looks and weight separate from their own – and even to take specific idols with a “healthy” mentality as role models for beauty and size.
- “Although I want to lose weight it’s not necessarily because of K-Pop and I’d never want to go for their body shape because I’d have to literally starve and shit. Anyways what I mean with this is that although I’d love to ideally have some facial/body features of some idols I don’t actively seek that out.”
- “Although I find a hefty amount of idols absolutely stunning (not to mention other Korean celebs), I try to keep things separated. They live a completely different reality from us normal people not to mention that in my particular case it would be particularly unhealthy for me to want to change my body to look more like idols.”
- “To be honest, I started off with a dangerous mentality of ‘If idols can do it, then I can too’ when I first started my weight loss journey. I’m perfectly aware of the dangerous diets that idols sometimes put themselves through to lose weight fast, and I was very tempted to try. But I knew was important that I needed to take things slow. I’ve always looked up to idols like Hwasa and Jihyo in terms of body types, and Jihyo was my biggest inspiration to lose weight gradually at my own pace.”
And one user explained that K-Pop was one of the reasons she had an eating disorder at a very young age.
“Looking back now, I think part of my draw to [girl groups]was that they motivated me to look more like them. More like my ideal body. Watching videos was always weird, because I loved the music but seeing the girls made me slowly hate myself more and more because why couldn’t I look like that? I ate less than they did, dedicated all of my spare time to exercising, so why were they so pretty and I still so ugly? I had a lot of thoughts like that. I slowly transitioned toward diets that idols said they did. I didn’t lose weight like they said they did. I thought I was a failure.” — Reddit User
After a particularly dangerous incident, she stopped following girl groups as she recovered – but K-Pop music ultimately saved her, too.
“I stopped following most girl groups after that, as I started to recover. Slowly, I was able to add them in again, but even still I find myself looking at some of the girls and having those thoughts. I am a naturally small, petite, cute girl. I’m 19 and look 14. I was wearing ‘Korean fashion’ before I knew what it was, just because that is what looked good on me. But when I compare myself with famous people that also fit those things (mainly Korean/Asian music stars or models) I still only see myself as that fat and ugly kid I thought I was back then. It doesn’t matter how many people tell me differently, my view of beauty was skewed in the most important time and will probably never be able to be fixed. And THAT was largely because of K-Pop. But as much as K-Pop fed into one of the darkest times of my life, it also got me out. There are many songs that literally saved my life.”
And on the other hand, Asian men said male K-Pop artists actually give them confidence!
- “Small Asian male here. Personally, it’s made me more confident in my body image. I’ve always been on the small side, especially for a guy, so seeing people like Woozi helps me feel better about my height (even though he’s still an inch taller than me LOL).”
- “Some of my guy friends who are also into K-Pop have said really similar things – one of them told me that after I told them how attractive Jimin was that he became more confident in his monolids looool.”
- “I used to think I wasn’t very attractive, but seeing handsome Asian guys in media certainly helped boost my confidence a bit in how I looked.”
Netizens are pointing out that there will always be someone to compare yourself to, but it’s about being happy with yourself and taking away the positive things from K-Pop – how important it is to look after yourself, take care of your appearance, work hard, never give up, and feel sexy and confident.
“At the end of the day, I can’t change my body type or my face—I have the one I was born with, and I’m happy with that. There will always be someone more attractive, more fit, etc. As long as I eat decently healthily, exercise some (I’m a fan of long walks), and generally take care of my appearance to feel confident, I’m happy.”