Does K-Pop Promote a Positive Body Image for Women?

CW: This article discusses topics eating disorders, body hatred, cyberbullying, anxiety which could be distressing to some readers.

K-POP Idols Trainees Dancers Having a Cool Body Image.



The power of K-pop culture and its adverse effects on body Image and audiences


This article will concentrate on how the K-POP industry has harmed women’s body image and how you, the reader, can promote more body positivity in your life. So, stick around and enjoy!


The dark side of K-pop


Is anybody familiar with the word Hallyu? The term translates to "Korean wave," which refers to the idea that describes the rise in popularity of Korean culture, and it goes without saying that Korean culture has taken the world by storm, particularly K-POP. I mean... I'm definitely a fan! But behind the glitz and the glam, the reality of life for an idol is far more challenging than it seems.


Idols experience extreme pressure when conforming to "Korean standards of beauty." K-pop stars are frequently considered to represent the "ideal body type," which includes features like a "slim figure," "pale skin," and a "v-shaped jaw."


Plastic surgery


South Korea is ranked fifth globally for having the most plastic surgeons in 2019, according to a survey conducted by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons. Over the years, several idols have come out saying they have undergone procedures. So, it's no surprise that fans feel pressure to appear like their idols.


Jessi, a solo artist, spoke on the KBS programme Happy Together about her plastic surgery experience:

"I did my eyes and nose three years ago. I didn't do it because I wanted to, though. I chose to do plastic surgery because of my agency's advice and to appear more photogenic."

A year later, she returned to Happy Together 3 and spoke about the hate comments she gets about her body:

"This is 2016; things have changed… I just want to say how I truly feel on TV… Girls should be more confident. Even a lot of idols get their breast done. The thing is, they always hide that, and they say they didn't get them done. Of course, their agency could stop them. But this is who I am. Why should I hide it?"

In an allkpop article, Jessi was named one of many idols who have helped improve perceptions of body image, stating that she advocates for people to love their bodies, whether they choose plastic surgery or not!


The normalisation of extreme diets


In an insightful Reddit thread, K-pop fans shared their thoughts on the perception of body image in K-pop concerning cyberbullying. The discussions ultimately intrigued me because Reddit has a substantial group of supporters with wide-ranging tastes and preferences. One user's comments are as follows:

"Definitely when I was younger, like 14-16 years old was not a good time for me. It's a time that a lot of teenage girls get really insecure about appearances […] I was skinny for my height, but looking at all idol weights, I decided to get it down to 45 kilos (less than 100 lbs). […] I succeeded for a short while, but there's no way I can comfortably and healthily live at that weight. Some people can, and good for them, but for me, that meant developing an eating disorder,"

In 2013, Lee Jieun, IU, mentioned her daily diet of an apple, two sweet potatoes, and a protein shake on Happy Together 3. She claimed that at the time, she was attempting to slim down while also filming a show and was successful, losing 5 kilograms in 5 days. After that, thousands of people tried the 500 Kcal diet, which quickly became a viral challenge, with several videos being shared on YouTube.


Such a dieting culture has increased the number of people in South Korea suffering from mental illnesses and disorders. In addition, the NHS recommends that a woman consumes 2,000 calories per day; being in a 1,500 calorie deficit can cause fatigue, low moods, malnutrition, a weak immune system, and other problems.


IU made an appearance on Healing Camp in 2014. She spoke openly about having an eating disorder when she was overcome with anxiety about losing all of her current fame and fortune. She would binge eat and then vomit to cope. IU sought professional help after realising she was in a bad place; she is now on the road to self-acceptance.


In conclusion, we can safely say that K-POP negatively affects its portrayal of body image, with fans impacted and the idols themselves. I want people to remember that there's no such thing as perfection; ideals lead to double standards. This means you're stuck being yourself, with all your flaws, mistakes, and struggles, but that's exactly what a beautiful person is. All of these things make you human. What matters is what you do with these things.


Here are some steps you can take to promote body positivity in your life:

  1. Take a timeout. Sometimes, you just need to reset yourself, be kind to yourself and take a break from the world.

  2. Surround yourself with things that make you happy: avoid toxic vibes and discover new sources of inspiration.

  3. Self-Care: It's all about you, baby. Give your body the nutrition it needs, stay hydrated, and rest when needed.

  4. Respect your individuality, show the true you and resist comparing yourself to others.

  5. Express your gratitude, being thankful is a simple yet powerful convention. The more you count your blessings, the more blessings you'll have to count.

Heavily inspired by the book "Good Vibes, Good Life: How Self-Love Is the Key to Unlocking Your Greatness" by Vex King.


I want to conclude with a poem that might encourage us all to start appreciating ourselves:

look down at your body whisper there is no home like you. - Thank You, Rupi Kaur


Check out this article to learn more ways to promote body positivity.