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Many have taken to social media in the past few months to throw away and often destroy their beauty products, which they say chain them to hours-long procedures every day so they can live up to their country’s standard of beauty, according to the Guardian.
Instagram user @hannamsalnam posted a video earlier this month of emptying out a make-up tray, destroying palettes of foundation, lipstick, and nail polish.
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The movement marks a large step in a country known for strict beauty practices such as the 10-step skincare regimen. For generations, Koreans have considered beauty and/or appearance as a marker for success. According to Gallup Korea, a national survey showed more than 80 percent of respondents said appearance was an important factor in life—across three surveys done in 1994, 2004 and 2015.
In 2013, Buzzfeed journalist Ashley Perez poignantly wrote of her experience moving to South Korea for a year, “In a culture where so many people strive to look the same way, any slight difference in appearance rapidly singles you out.”
The hype shows in the market, too. In 2017, South Korea’s beauty market was valued at $13 billion, ranking among the top 10 beauty product markets globally. Cha Ji-won, a Korean activist who once had succumbed to the pressure, told the Guardian that she once spent as much as 100,000 won ($88) on makeup every month.
Women behind the current movement, aptly named “Escape the Corset,” have told the Guardian that this pressure on physical appearance requires them to wake up two hours before work to get ready.
But they are now calling out the work for what it is: a form of labor. And there seems to be an audience for the movement. Ji-won now runs lessons about feminism, menstrual health, and similar issues on YouTube. Her videos have between 41k and 101k views.
Another activist, Jiwon Joy Park, started an account on Instagram only last year to promote body positivity, and her work as a plus model. She already has more than 11,000 followers on that platform.
“The reason why I do this is because I want to change all of the prejudices and change the world. From here the most outer beauty focused country,” she wrote in a recent post.
“I don’t feel pretty. I want to have your confidence,” one follower wrote on her post. “Thank you for doing what you do…” The Daily Dot reached out to all three activists for comment.
While it’s not clear how it’s hit the beauty industry, the Guardian report says there are concerns among cosmetics retailers about the backlash and that they are now focusing on sales for their male customers.
Samira Sadeque is a New York-based journalist reporting on immigration, sexual violence, and mental health, and will sometimes write about memes and dinosaurs too. Her work also appears in Reuters, NPR, and NBC among other publications. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School, and her work has been nominated for SAJA awards. Follow: @Samideque