Editor’s Note: This article contains mentions of eating disorders and disordered eating. Please take care while reading, and note the helpful resources at the end of this story.
A Korean American woman is speaking out about the beauty standards in Korea and the harmful effects they had on her growing up.
Adeline Kim (@adelinehkim), 23, who was born in the United States but relocated to Korea in middle school, recently filmed a video in which she discusses a variety of Korean beauty standards she was subject to.
“I don’t think people understand how crazy the beauty standards can be if you live in Korea,” Adeline begins. “I’m going to be sharing my experience as a Korean American who grew up in Korea.”
In America, Adeline says she often played soccer outside, which resulted in her being tan. She also had “big thighs,” which she notes were “not even that big.”
“In Korea, it’s, like, really common for people to comment on your weight. So whenever I’d show up to a family function, my aunts and uncles would be like, ‘you lost weight’ or ‘you gained weight,'” Adeline says. “And obviously, the way that they say it has very different connotations.”
Adeline reveals that her mom was an almond mom and didn’t condone having snacks in the house.
“My mom would always be like, ‘Oh, isn’t it too late to eat fried chicken?’ or my dad would make jokes like, ‘Oh, you can go to the Olympics and be a professional weight lifter because you have really thick thighs, or like, your thighs look like horse thighs, or like, cow thighs.'”
The term “honey thighs” in Korean celebrity culture was also prevalent while Adeline was growing up. Basically, “it’s a nice way to put that someone’s, like, thick.” Adeline’s friends would try to cheer her up by telling her she was lucky to have honey thighs — when in reality, no one else actually wanted them.
Diet culture, according to Adeline, was also “super trendy” in her middle school. Meanwhile, advertisements for cosmetic surgery are rampant in Korea, too.
“And obviously, I hopped on the trend and started dieting, which, like, caused me ED and body dysmorphia,” she says. ED is an abbreviation for eating disorder. “There’s lipo commercials, plastic surgery commercials everywhere in Korea. All the models are super skinny.”
“…growing up in Korea I was super insecure about my thighs. And honestly, I still am to this day, but I’m slowly learning to grow to love them.”
Adeline admits that while she’s still insecure about her thighs, she’s on her way to loving and accepting them the way they are.
“So, growing up in Korea I was super insecure about my thighs,” she says. “And honestly, I still am to this day, but I’m slowly learning to grow to love them.”
“I’m already struggling in America I can’t imagine how the ppl in Korea are doing”
Commenters, regardless of their familiarity with Korean beauty standards, are sharing their own struggles and insecurities, too.
“My almond mom calls me her strong daughter,” @lexxieee_jomaxxin wrote.
“꿀벅지 = thunder thighs but in the most backhanded way possible,” @sandyhojunglee claimed.
“I REMEMBER SEEING IDOL DIETS ONLINE it was like an apple and a sweet potato and that’s all ppl ate for the day,” @boopbeepmari revealed.
“I’m already struggling in America I can’t imagine how the ppl in Korea are doing,” @em0tr4shrawr said.
The societal pressure to fit the mold of what Korean culture deems beautiful has long taken a toll on impressionable adolescents. Given that 24% of all cosmetic surgeries are performed in South Korea, the correlation between physical beauty and self-worth, as Adeline explains, is deeply embedded in the country’s DNA.
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If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder or disordered eating habits, contact the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) at 1-800-931-2237. You can also connect with a Crisis Text Line counselor at no charge by texting the word “HOME” to 741741. Visit the NEDA website to learn more about the possible warning signs of eating disorders and disordered eating.
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