Beauty as observed in Seoul

Since I wrote my blog this morning nothing interesting has really happened as I have been completely out of energy the entire day, so instead of talking about today I want to use this chance to write about something else.

I have been wanting to share my opinion, conclusions and thoughts on Korea and Koreans for a while, so I reckon that this will be the first of several posts where I will get to dig a bit into that. Of course my observations are purely based on my experiences in Seoul and I have no real knowledge of wether this is also true for the rest of South Korea or not.

The first thing I want to talk about is probably the most obvious ones: beauty.

South Korea is particularly well know for beauty products and plastic surgery clinic across the worlds, in particular asia.

Beauty Products

In any shopping district here every other shop will be a beauty shop. To take Ewha shopping district as an example I can name at least nine beauty shops situated on the main street, that is only about 400 meters long, and I know that there are probably more that I just can’t remember the names of. It feels like there is a beauty shop at every corner almost anywhere in Seoul.

I have also noticed that my skin has gotten a lot better in the time that I have been here, although I am still not sure wether that is due to the few beauty products that I have bought or the Korean weather.

Here in Seoul it is also not uncommon to see guys wear beauty products and make-up, it isn’t something only for females. Here beauty seems to be something that concerns males and females alike, unlike in Europe where it is mainly, if not only, for females.

Style

When talking beauty in South Korea style is also one of the first things that pop to mind, and although people in Asia generally seem to care more about their style than people in Western countries seem to do, South Korea still has a very distinctive style that stands out from the general Asian trends. The South Korean trends, as I have observed them, are actually quite similar to Danish design in many ways. There is especially a lot of focus on minimalism, simplicity and naturalism, which all seem to be recurring themes in Danish design all the same.

Korean girls like their pencil skirts for study or work days. Furthermore they seem to enjoy black and white pepped up with one or two very bright and fresh colors. Korean women will also rarely forget their high heels. I tried, but completely failed at finding good examples on google. I also went through my own stack of photos but most of them just showed japanese tourists: a complete failure. The best I could do was the following, but it really doesn’t do the fashion here justice:


Plastic Surgery

I reckon that it is impossible to talk about Beauty in South Korea without getting into talking about Plastic Surgery, so here we go. South Korea is without any doubt the world’s center for plastic surgery, it’s not the cheapest place to get plastic surgery done, but it where the best doctors are located. A lot of my asian friends here have told me that their friends all expect them to come back with a completely new face because they are going to South Korea.

Because Plastic surgery is so available here it seems to be viewed as something rather normal, very contrarily to the current view on Plastic Surgery in Europe. Getting double eye-lid surgery is rather normal and I often hear about girls who team up and share the fees. For those of you currently wondering what double eye-lids are let me briefly explain: Single eyelids is when there is only one fold on the eyelid and most asians are born with single eyelids, however, with double eyelids there are two folds on the eyelids which makes the eyes look bigger, most western people are born with double eyelids. Many girls here seems to have a complexion about small eyes so they often talk about how they want to get double eye-lid surgery. Uh, and I found a picture to illustrate the difference between double eye-lid and single eye-lid:


The same as with everything else Plastic Surgery has it cons and pros, and personally I don’t think that it is bad, nor that it is necessary. I do admit that a lot of the girls come out looking gorgeous, but equally many of them tell about the hardship of not being able to recognise oneself in the mirror, as well as the often long and difficult recovery progress after the surgery.

I find it quite amasing that plastic surgery still seems to be such a sensitive subject in Europe, and is seen almost as something terrible at times, whereas here it is now so integrated in the asian culture that it is simply there as an available option for people without confidence in their initial looks, or for people who feel that they need to change in order to be happy.

Pressure

Lastly I want to talk about the hunt for beauty as I have seen it here in Seoul. Indeed there does seem to be a lot of pressure on girls, and boys alike, to be beautiful (or handsome), I mainly sense it through every day talk. Even skinny girls here seem to have a lot of complex about their weight, and I am sure that at least half of them would have been stamped anorexic and been hospitalised had it been Europe. Here talk about diets, plastic surgery and beauty products is a lot more part of the every day morning talk than anywhere else I have ever lived.

To me it seems that in Europe beauty is something left up to the individual whereas here it is just as much something that is shared. Because of this I feel that beauty is often a sensitive topic in Europe, but here I have always felt that everyone is very open about it, and no one shies away from the topic.

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Thilde Kold Holdt

I am a novelist by profession, currently working an epic fantasy series about 7th century Korea. My epic fantasy trilogy about Vikings, the Hanged God, is currently being published. I have lived

enough different places that the most difficult question to answer is: "where are you from?" I am, quite simply, from the planet Earth, for I have yet to set foot on Mars. Someday, though...

© Thilde Kold Holdt