After getting an ID photo taken in South Korea, a woman was surprised to see that her face had been photoshopped.
In a TikTok posted last week, user Farida (@by__farida) shared the ID photo with the text overlay, “when you move to Korea and the gov gives you a new face,” with a crying emoji. She then shows the photo, revealing that her features had been changed slightly, and her skin had been smoothed. But the most dramatic change of all is that her skin tone had been lightened several shades.
“CAUSE WHO TF IS THIS?!” Farida wrote in her video’s caption. By Monday, her video had over 2 million views.
@by__farida CAUSE WHO TF IS THIS???!!! #korea #southkorea #lifeinkorea #seoul #fyp #foreignerinkorea ♬ MAKE SOME NOISE YALL – pat !
Many commenters were shocked by the dramatic difference between Farida’s skin tone and the lightened version in the ID photo.
“Bro got white washed,” one user wrote, with a crying emoji.
Some commenters shared that they’ve experienced this phenomenon themselves.
“I had to tell them NO PHOTOSHOP many times prior to getting the prints because I heard of this happening,” another user shared. “They were shocked I was adamant.”
Beauty standards can be extreme in South Korea.
Pride in one’s appearance is a well-documented cultural value, and adherence to Korean beauty standards often determines how well someone will be treated in society.
Korean beauty standards are so notorious that they’ve garnered their own Wikipedia article. Often criticized for being impossible to achieve, these norms typically include “a slim figure, flawlessly pale skin, distinctive jaw and large, double-lidded eyes,” as described in an article for The Korea Times.
K-Pop also holds a large influence over beauty standards, with performers often going under the knife and enduring grueling diet and exercise routines in hopes of achieving perfection. This has culminated in performers fainting onstage due to overexertion, leading some to call for investigations of labor abuse in the K-Pop industry.
In spite of this, looks still reign supreme in South Korea, where currently, the cosmetics market is valued at more than $91 billion USD in 2022, and is only projected to keep climbing. In an article for Insider in 2015, South Korea was dubbed “the plastic surgery capital of the world.” At the time of the article’s publication, South Korea had the most surgeries per capita on earth.
One’s appearance is also influential when job seeking.
In 2015, the South Korean Employment and Labor Ministry sparked controversy after sharing a blog post that promoted a “preferable appearance” among job seekers, with many saying that the post encouraged people to get plastic surgery.
As a result, the practice of retouching or modifying ID photos has become commonplace, with an emphasis on looking one’s best at all times.
Many shops in Seoul that offer photos for government IDs and headshots for job applications are upfront about their offers for photo retouching. The popular Photobi Studio in Hongdae advertises “identity portraits” with retouching for 30,000 won, or about $22 USD. Lala Photo Studio in Seoul offers retouching, as well as hair and makeup for ID photos.
In a follow up video, Farida shared that she didn’t realize the extent to which her photo would be retouched, and that she agreed to it at a coworker’s suggestion, thinking that the changes would be subtle.
@by__farida Replying to @Stephanie #fyp #foreignerinkorea #korea #southkorea #seoul #lifeinkorea ♬ original sound – FARIDA ✩ IN KOREA!
“I thought she meant a pimple here and there,” she says incredulously in her video.
She expresses confusion and disbelief over the extent of the retouching, claiming that the ID photo looks like “an AI character.”
“Next time I’ll definitely tell them no photoshop,” she says.
The Daily Dot reached out to Farida via TikTok comment.