In South Korea, and especially in Seoul, looks are incredibly important and they go to great lengths to achieve the ideals of the country of how a man or woman is supposed to look. If it’s through skin care routines, diets, counterfeit fashion or even extreme plastic surgery. All of it is possible in South Korea.
Seoul is one of the highest density of people in one city in the world therefore work is a little more scarce which means people who are good-looking have more chance of being hired and excel in companies than people with average looks. Having your picture on your resumé makes it even more difficult because they will only look at that and base their thoughts on that instead of on your skills.
This is one of the many reasons why it is almost necessary to go to health clubs, do daily skin care routines and even go to skin treatment centers. There are many skin care shops aswell, well-known brands as Dr Jart, Tony Moly, Innisfree and Etude House sell in big quantities promoting full regimes for daily skin care to follow, most are around 10 steps every day which includes makeup remover and oil cleanser, water-based cleanser, exfoliation, toner, essences, serums, booster and ampoules, sheet masks, eye cream, moisturizer and lastly sun protection. This alone is why Korea is also a leader in sales of beauty products. In 2015, South Korea exported more than 2.64 billion dollars of cosmetic goods. Slowly Europe and America are becoming more used to these regimes and copying them.
Records of the use of cosmetics in Korea date back to the time of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, and the use of makeup flourished during the Goryeo kingdom. Cosmetics were made from lotions extracted from plants, including gourd stems; Ground mung bean contains saponin and was helpful for cleansing. Castor oils and camellia oils were used as hair oil. They had a pleasant smell and were not sticky. To moisturizer and add gloss to the skin, safflower oil was used. Apricot and peach oils were used to remove freckles and liver spots. A powder called ‘mibun’ or ‘baekbun’ was made from ground rice and millet blended with water or oil.
Scents were added to extracts from grains and other plants, for example from dried clove buds. Perfume was also used to relieve stresses and tiredness. The Gyuhap Chongseo, an ancient women’s encyclopedia, includes various methods for making perfume.
According to Gyuhap Chongseo, eyebrows were the central feature of a woman’s face. The work describes ten popular eyebrow shapes. Crescent or willow leaf shapes were most popular. Plant ash was the basic raw material used for eyebrow ink, with which women drew their eyebrows in various shapes. The primary colors were black, blue, and dark brown. Yeonji is the Korean name of rouge, which was used to colour the lips and cheeks. It could be made from safflower.
In the Joseon period, luxurious makeup was forbidden because of Confucianism. Upper-class women tended to copy the makeup and style of gisaeng during this period.
Another thing in Korea is fashion, looking at many celebrities from Korea they are always quite fashionable and almost always wearing luxury brand items. Too bad though for a lot of the South Korean citizens, most of the brand items are not available in South Korea and one has to travel to countries that do have the brands..
But fret not when you go to Seoul it is incredibly easy to buy knock off brands. Due to the demand being so high and the actual brand not supplying their items, stores have created knock off’s of many of the most wanted brands like SUPREME, Raf Simons, Off-White, Balenciaga and Fear Of God. You’re able to buy them simply on the street or even almost identical pieces of clothing in malls for a much lower price than the original too. It’s unsure who or what organization creates these knock off’s but they do have a keen eye on that seasons fashion trends, Government is working hard against these illegal practices but young fashionistas don’t really care if they wear the fakes or the reals as long as they look great. Highsnobiety made a 15 minute documentary on this scene if you want to know more, watch it. I personally think it’s super interesting.
According to South Korea there are only a couple of things more attractive to a person and most of those things are not their Korean traits. Seoul is named as the plastic surgery capital of the world and in the Gangnam district alone there are over 500 aesthetic centres alone.
Cosmetic surgery began during the Korean War, in the 1950s, as doctors performed reconstructive surgeries on soldiers whose faces sustained injuries. Soon enough, prostitutes became clients of cosmetic surgery, in order to appeal to society, altering their faces to have a different feature, at the same time providing opportunities for cosmetic surgeons to create businesses. Since then, the business has thrived, with many women from ages 19 to 49 having had cosmetic surgery.
One of the most requested surgeries in plastic surgery is eyelid surgery. In this procedure they create a crease in the monolid eye. Giving them a more western and less sleepy looking look. Other surgeries are nose corrections and even facial reconstruction as a sharp jaw line is viewed as more attractive aswell.
In cases of celebrities it is so severe to be viewed in a certain way that most (not all) have a lot done to their face, torso and in some cases even their legs. Some fans (or anti fans) are very rough on the idols and will always judge them on certain traits so companies make sure there is almost nothing to judge in a way that idols have almost no say in what and which way their looks are altered.
Tattoos in Korea
Tattoos in Korea are frowned upon. There is a tattoo movement but it is relatively small. Most of the people you see with tattoos are artists, musicians, gangsters, and foreigners. Tattoos are not allowed on Korean television so If someone with tattoos is appearing on tv they are asked to cover up the tattoos with clothes like as a long sleeve shirt if they don’t or you can’t because they’re in a more obvious place they will blur out the tattoos.
For someone in Korea to legally (official certified) tattoo in Korea they must be a doctor.
Most tattoo parlors are not advertised to the general public usually you have to get in contact with someone who knows where to find a tattoo artist. Most tattoo parlors are in apartment buildings. The apartment buildings would most often have sterilization machine and clean leather seats. The few places that advertise themselves to the public have a similar setup but are more open in the eye of the public. These sites often get raided by the police, get expensive fines and are even forced to close down. You can also find travelling tattoo artists who are more likely go to the clients’ house or have the client come to their house.
Usually when someone has a tattoo they can be banned/told to leave public bath houses, But this depends on the rules of the establishment and if you’re a foreigner or not. If you have tattoo’s and worried about it just ask.