• Halin Roche

The Unrealistic Beauty Standards in the K-pop Industry

Every time we stick another poster of our favourite K-pop idol on the wall, create a fan page for a cool boy band, stalk and admire our dearest icons, a K-pop star struggles to maintain their looks.

Oh My Girl 한국어: 20160702, F2.8 Star (2016)


Music connects people despite a million differences. The language might be different, but the emotions it gives us are the same for all people who listen to it. It brings the likenesses of people together, who then create a multi-star fandom of their beloved icons. People, especially youth, are extremely open about their likes and dislikes. They just need a few seconds to make any culture top the chart and any person can become the next overnight celebrity.

Speaking of pop culture, no country takes it as seriously as South Korea does. The South Korean popular culture or simply K-pop has usurped the attention of masses of the youth from every country. K-pop is undoubtedly one of the major factors that push global cultures to the next level by building the likes and preferences of youth drastically. With its alluring numbers, lyrics, and icons, K-pop has made the world turnover to witness culture and entertainment being taken to the next level. Korean might be a foreign language for many of us, but it hits the right nerve with its performances.

Fans believe what they see on the stage. But, what lies hidden is the BTS. No, not the famous boy band, but the "behind the scenes". We seldom know what precedes and follows stage performances.

Korea is ranked first in the world with regards to its developing plastic surgery domain. In 2020, nearly 20% of the country’s population had resorted to cosmetic enhancements at least once in their lifetime. The number only increases every year. Similarly, Korea’s fascination with beauty keeps enlarging as well and this is exactly where the problem arises.

To boost unattainable standards of beauty, Korea uses the trope of K-pop culture. Needless to say, the industry is filled with celebrities and budding icons who have to follow strict beauty regimes. Some shocking revelations by K-pop stars are jaw-dropping.

One expectation of a K-pop idol is to be as lean as possible. Several idols have reported extreme weight loss to attain the desired body type. Dieting together with members of the band is a common practice in the industry. This is crucial as they are expected to look their best 24/7, whether they are in front of a camera or not. K-pop has been highly criticised for sponsoring a petite lifestyle. One example is JinE from Oh My Girl who was forced into adopting an unbelievable diet chart which spoilt her appetite to the core. She fell ill with a serious eating disorder which forced her to quit the industry and leave home.

K-pop females' eating patterns are structured to fit into these numbers. Whilst several stars develop physical as well as mental health issues whilst following diets, the focus sadly lies on the visual outcome only. Overall health and lifestyle stand no chance versus the desired on-stage appearance.

The unethical lifestyle imposed by the K-pop industry has broken the notion that only females are pressured to stay beautiful in and out. In recent years, the lifestyles led by famous boy bands have shocked people across the world. While females face the compulsion to stay thin and tall, males are further coerced into adopting feminine looks.

Image source: LG

The best example would be BTS, whose members are forced to look lean, tall, and feminine. It might seem positive that boy bands receive applause for their success and talent, but it is all at the cost of adopting a completely artificial lifestyle.

Opting for the desired body is a personal choice. The problem arises when it becomes forcefully added to society. Asian men and women have increasingly aimed to become the replicas of their beloved K-pop idols, all easy through plastic surgeries and heavy make-up. Instead of breaking and ending stereotypes, the industry has been scourging fake ideas of beauty which is a dangerous evil to society.

Sadly, pop culture, which is supposed to give safe and inclusive representation, tends to become a curse. Beauty has become the best source of investment which has turned people towards adopting an appearance that comes at the cost of losing originality. It is high time that fans look beyond the stage and know what is happening behind the curtain. Obsession might go a long way but will never bring back health and solace once lost.


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