Imagine yourself as a senior graduating high school. What would you want as a graduation gift? If your family is fairly well off, a typical answer from a teen in the US might consist of: a car, cash, or senior trip. However, if you were to ask that same question to a teen in Korea, their answer would be much different. Instead of a car or some cash, it’s commonplace for Korean teens, specifically females, to ask for and receive plastic surgery as a graduation gift. Body and beauty ideals play a significantly large role for teens in Korea and getting cosmetic procedures done have become “a normal thing” for both teens and women. In South Korea, 1 in 5 women receive cosmetic surgery, often in the form of rhinoplasty or the double eyelid surgery. According to Patricia Marx from The New York Magazine, “South Korea is ranked number 1 for the most plastic surgery procedures per capita and one in five women has had some kind of cosmetic procedure done” (Marx). Many Korean entertainment businesses and agencies such as SM, YG, and FNC Entertainment have a certain standard other than talent: body measurements, appearance, and how photogenic you are. After seeing all of the girl groups, famous actresses, and models, teens become highly influenced and begin making it their goal to look like the people they see on TV, magazines, and social media. Raising children to adolescence in a world where it is not only common, but expected for teens to augment their physical appearance raises the beauty standards to an unnatural level, thus resulting in a negative effect on teen self-confidence.
As a Kpop lover myself, I remember being highly influenced as a young and naive teenager by the beauty standards I would see on Youtube videos, TV, social media and magazines or articles. Famous kpop idols and girl groups all had something constantly similar throughout: small faces, big eyes, a perky nose and a very thin body. I remember admiring, almost worshiping, these Kpop celebrities and feeling disappointed when I would look in the mirror to discover my features were so far from theirs. Nearly all of my favorite girl groups had double eyelid surgery, causing me to despise the natural shape of my eyes with the monolids that I had. Evenmore, every female Kpop star was “perfectly” thin with long legs, and compared to them, I felt bloated and chubby. Secretly hoping to learn their beauty secrets, I began to search up the diets and workouts these stars did in order to maintain their figure. What I discovered was shocking. Diets consisted of hardly any food: one sweet potato, a protein shake, and a few vegetables at most. These girls didn’t have perfect health, but rather they nearly starved themselves to better conform to the unrealistic beauty standards of the industry. All of a sudden, I thought back to when I was a young teen, and when I used to compare my diet to that of the celebrities and began to believe I was eating too much. In that moment, I felt both guilt and sorrow knowing that I had once been part of the problem in valuing this unrealistic beauty. As a young and naive teenager, I thought that if I just simply followed their diets, I would be able to achieve the body I wanted. Although, these diets can make one lose weight, it is certainly unhealthy and puts your body at a major risk of malnutrition and can lead to eating disorders. Recognizing the ridiculousness of this industry and it’s unattainable standards, I thought to myself, “If I need to risk my health and go through this hassle, I’ll gladly be myself instead.”
Korea’s entertainment businesses have quite a strict standard that is affecting many of the Korean teens’ health as they starve themselves to get a body that they see on the media, and they also get mentally affected as they prioritize beauty and appearance over their talents and skill. Rather than prioritizing the skill or talent, entertainments sometimes look at characteristics other than talent: looks. Having more open standards of beauty and an increase in diversity of body sizes would not only positively affect teens but also release them from their “bubble” of what their body is allowed to look like versus how their face is supposed to be. The sad part is that my story is not unique. Thousands of teens, including myself, feel the pressure to meet these unrealistic beauty standards, and countless teens suffer mental abuse because of it. As a community, we have the power to reject these unacceptable standards and lift up our teens, supporting them and showing them that beauty cannot, and should not be bought.
<Danielle Lee OCSA 11th Grade