Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Korean Review: Day 9 - Body Image

9...
The number of rooms in the game of Clue...
The number of reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh...
The number of people that make up the Brady Bunch...
The number of days that I have left here on the peninsula of South Korea!

As a way to wrap up my time here in Seoul, I'm going to recap my past year through 9 final blog posts regarding things I've experienced/learned. Today, the topic is body image.

Koreans are very concerned about the way that they look. Granted, other countries, like the USA, are as well. But it's almost a 24-hour obsession here. Plastic surgery rates are the highest in the world  due to the relatively low costs compared to other countries. Ads, like the following, litter the walls of numerous subway stops in the Gangnam area (the rich, business oriented part of Seoul):



These images send the message that beauty is the key to everything. Pale, white skin is beautiful. Small faces are the most attractive. Little noses and close together eyes are the way to go. Children as young as 15 receive these treatments as birthday presents from their parents!

Another thing is that many Koreans (not all) want to stay as white as possible. They see white as being pure and clean. Summertime brings out the long sleeves, umbrellas, and whitening cream. To Westerners, this is a bit backwards. We utilize summertime as a chance to tan and become a few shades darker. It's very interesting to be battling a hoard of umbrellas on the sidewalk on a clear, sunny day while walking around Seoul.

Being exposed to these images and experiences daily has been quite the eye opening experience for me. It has given me a greater appreciation for cultural differences that exist amongst various groups around the world. It also goes to show that body image carries a lot of weight, even outside of the United States.