One Woman is Challenging South Korea’s Beauty Standard
While many countries seem to have fairly strict beauty standards, there may be none as strict as South Korea. If you are not rail-thin you are seen as fat, even if you are just a few pounds heavier. But, Vivan Geeyang Kim, a South Korean plus-size model is looking to challenge the beauty standard and show her country—and everyone—that every size is beautiful.
A 2013 study by Seoul’s Samyook University found that 154 female students were in a normal weight range, but over 95 percent of them were not happy with their bodies, and 60 percent felt they needed to lose weight.
While this sort of thinking may seem appalling to some, it is completely normal in South Korea, where the ideal weight for women is about 110 pounds. Women constantly strive to look like the famous K-pop stars and actresses, which is a “ridiculous, impossible standard” Kim—who has been turned away from American plus-size modeling agencies for being “too thin”—said in an interview, pointing out how that way of thinking can ruin a woman’s self-esteem.
But, unfortunately, it is a normal way of thinking in South Korea, where women are mocked for their weight by virtually everyone, including their own families. Ads that body shame women are as common as ads for cell phones and clothing. This need for a perfect body has led to a massive $4.6-billion plastic surgery industry, where all sorts of operations to make people more “beautiful” are possible.
Kim is no stranger to being fat shamed; people mock her for her size online constantly and hate her for her confidence in her body. Some have even said she should not be seen in public or in any form of media. It has gotten so bad that she has received death threats and abusive messages that resulted in lawsuits. But, she has not let that stop her from working to change South Korea’s ideas of beauty, or trying to show other girls that they are not alone.
While mainstream media refuses to acknowledge her, Kim has taken matters into her own hands. She has created a quarterly online magazine aimed at plus-size women, offering them fashion tips and advice on dealing with bullying. She hopes it serves as a reminder to her readers that every size is beautiful, while also giving them a safe place to feel loved and welcomed.
It is just a small step, but Kim hopes to continue to challenge the beauty standard in South Korea. So many women have suffered thanks to these ideas of beauty when that should never be the case. Just like Kim has made clear, every size is beautiful, and nobody should belittle another person for not looking like what the rest of the country expects them to. She hopes that more people can learn to love their bodies as they are, without the need for plastic surgery or weight loss, and join the movement to challenge the beauty standard.