As in most countries, the standard of beauty is a little different for men and for women, but still, very similar.
In Korea, the women have to be small. Any big boned woman or woman who carries any extra weight will not be considered pretty in Korea. After that, the woman must not have squinty eyes. In the west, sometimes, we look at oriental women and see the ones who just have slits for eyes, and thing they look very exotic and pretty, but the Koreans don’t think that way at all. Koreans want to have big eyes. If they had eyes like the people from the west, they would be thrilled. Many of them have surgery to give them a line in their eye lid so their eyes will open up more. Koreans also love white skin. They also always talk about women with small faces. If you have a broad face or a big jaw, they are not going to find you pretty. If they think you are pretty, they may say to you, “Oh, you have a small face!”
If a woman has a natural tan or accidently gets a tan, she doesn’t feel pretty at all in S. Korea. The standard is white skin, and not all of them have it naturally. They also must not have any blemishes on their skin at all including pimples, freckles, birth marks, or scars. If they have any of these, they will go so far as surgery to try to remove them.
The older women won’t let themselves get gray. They all color their hair. They think no matter how old you get, everyone should have black hair. The younger women want to look more like the girls from the west. Many of them will go to the hair shop to get a slightly red tint to their hair, and some will go so far as trying to strip their hair of all its color or making their hair bright red, blue, or green.
As for the guys, there is one requirement to be considered good looking: you must be tall. If you are tall, it doesn’t matter what else is wrong with you, the girls will think you are good looking. They don’t want big broad, chunky guys, but tall slim guys. If a guy is naturally big and broad, they will think he is fat whether he actually is or not and not think he good looking. However, it is okay for a guy from the west to be big and broad because that is what they expect. As long as he is tall, they will think he is good looking.
The guys have to have white skin too. They have special sleeves the men and women both wear because the guys don’t want a tan either My Korean son in law has a kind of natural tan whether he goes in the sun or not, and he doesn’t like it. He thinks it makes him look like a poor farmer, but he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He has searched through his family tree trying to figure out how he got such dark skin, but he isn’t quite sure because everyone in his family has very white skin except him.
Korean guys won’t let themselves go bald for the most part. Some of them do go bald, but they really fight it. They will be constantly looking for ways to stimulate hair growth. Some Korean guys even have perms put in their hair to make their hair look curly. It is really funny for me when I go into a hair shop and see a guy sitting in one of the chairs with curlers in his hair, but when they take the curlers out, he usually looks really nice. The older ones who go bald end up buying wigs so no one will see their bald spot. As the Korean men get older, most of them will also go to the hair shop and keep their hair colored black. Some of the younger guys will also go to the hair shop and let the lady there give their hair a red tint. The Korean society doesn’t accept men to wear their hair longer. My Korean son in law had a pony tail when my daughter met him, and his parents just could not take it. His mother finally convinced him that it just didn’t work in Korea. He had seen guys with pony tails when he was in New York and liked it, but she is right. It doesn’t work in Korea.
Koreans guys will, though, wear jewelry. It is very normal for a guy to have a big pendant necklace, rings, or bracelets. Many of the taxi cab drivers have either a Buddhist bracelet or rosary beads hanging from their mirror in their cab. I was given many bracelets in S. Korea. One of the most popular bracelets is of lotus seeds. They are the size of large beads. Koreans also give friendship bracelets.
At times, with the standard of beauty for men in Korea, the people from the west may misunderstand them. They like thin guys with pleasing features, and they have several guys who are so pretty they almost look like girls. These guys are considered good looking, but in America, some may find them efeminate, but they are anything but. They are 100% man even if they are so pretty they look like a girl. They have a long history with guys who look like this. In Busan, the Bekjae people are famous in Korea for having had guys who were downright pretty who actually wore makeup, but were also 100% man. They were the warrior class of the Bekjae people and despite their looks and polite mannerisms were very tough guys like the knights from England. Now a days, many of these types of guys become K-pop singers.
Something that is very ususual in S. Korea is their love of glasses. Whether they need glasses or not, some will actually wear glasses that have no glass in them. They want to appear intelligent, and they think people with glasses look intelligent. The young people not only want glasses, but they really like big goggle looking glasses. They think they are cool.
There may be other things that could be said, but these are basics about what the Koreans consider beautiful and what they accept.