A Korean model challenges her country’s beauty standards

In addition to having big eyes and a high nose, a beautiful woman is expected to be very thin.


Senin, 23 Mei 2016 13:16 WIB

Kim Gee-yang. (Photo: Courtesy of Kim Gee-yang)

Kim Gee-yang. (Photo: Courtesy of Kim Gee-yang)

More South Koreans per capita undergo plastic surgery compared to any other country in the world. 

In addition to having big eyes and a high nose, a beautiful woman is expected to be very thin.

But one South Korean model is taking on the industry in her own terms.

Jason Strother has this story from Seoul.

Kim Gee-yang struts down the runway dressed in a black corset and leather skirt.

As far as standards go, she doesn't fit them. At 166cm tall and about 70 kilograms, she is average height and, well, curvy compared to other South Korean women in their 20s.

Kim got her break in modeling after sending her photos to LA’s 2010 Full Figure Fashion Week.

“When I was in LA, I was too skinny to do plus size modeling, but in Korea, I am just a fat woman, yeah,” she told me.

And in image-conscious, plastic surgery crazy Korea, there’s also a lot of pressure for women to be skinny.

Kim says Korean women like her have a hard time finding clothes that fit them.

Anything above an American size 6 or European size 40 is considered plus size here.

“I’m kind of alien in Korea. People who are plus size in Korea, they are not interested in a social life, they don’t go to the shopping,’ says Kim. They don’t want people staring at them. 

And everyone constantly reminds them how big they are, she says.

“My mother always said me you are so fat and have to lose your weight and when I met my friends they said you are fat or lose your weight.”

Kim says at first her parents didn’t want her to go into modeling, but now they’re proud of what she’s accomplished.

In addition to LA, she’s done runway shows in Miami and the Caribbean. Kim’s been a finalist in photo contests for Benetton and American Apparel.

But still no Korean fashion shows or magazines have given her work.

So, she started her own magazine that features plus size models.

I went with Kim to a printing house as copies of her magazine came off the presses. 

It’s called 66/100, the maximum sizes respectively for women and men’s clothing sold in Korean retail stores. Kim is an 88.  

On the cover, Kim is clutching a chunk of boiled pig’s feet with her manicured fingertips.

The picture goes with the feature article, Innocent Pleasure.

Kim writes you shouldn’t feel guilty for eating what you like. She also says you shouldn’t feel ashamed of what you look like – 66/ 100’s motto is No Matter What, You Are Beautiful. And her magazine has inspired other women here to give modeling a shot.

23-year old Lee Hyun-gyeong poses for 66/100’s online clothing shop – she wears a Korean size 99.  

A year ago, Lee won the magazine’s make over contest and says modeling changed her life.

“I was afraid to have my picture taken. Compared to other people I look bigger, I always looked sad in pictures, I thought I was ugly,” said Lee.  

“Now my friends and family say I seem so much happier and they say they never knew how pretty I am.”

Kim Gee-yan g has many supporters for her magazine, but there are still plenty of haters. And the harshest remarks appear online.

“Those comments, I really upset cause it hurts other people who support me, or other people who are plus size.”

But Kim says she thinks she’s taken away the power of those online insults. She has printed the negative comments in the latest issue of her magazine, and it’s given her the ability to laugh at them.


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