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Global Influence: 5 Facts About Korean Pop Culture, Beauty & Fashion

January 13, 2015  
Filed under Global Spotlight

EXO group fashion

Korean dramas, Gangnam Style, K-pop, Samsung, Hyundai and amazing skincare products might be the first things that come to mind when you think of South Korea. But with 50 million people living in a country the size of Utah (which has a population of 2.9 million), along with a competitive nature that stems from the country’s history, and the “we” instead of “I” mentality, the effects trickle into a thriving beauty and fashion culture–and it’s not stopping anytime soon.


Huge in research and development, South Korea was recognized as the world’s most R&D-intensive country and ranked first in Bloomberg’s Global Innovation Index in 2014, which is probably the reason for their innovative skincare and makeup lines, as well as their advancement in technology.

Nip & Tuck

From a 2010 report by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, South Korea ranked #1. Double eyelids, nose jobs and facial reconstruction in Asian countries surpass breast augmentation, which is more popular in Western and European nations due to different ideals of beauty. It’s not uncommon to see poster and billboard advertisements flashed across subway stations and on the streets.

Me Too, Me Too

When a character on a popular drama starts a trend, almost everyone needs to have that thing and it becomes an instant hit. The same goes with face shape, hair color, hair style, jewelry, clothing and shoes. Andwhenyou’rethisclose to people everyday and every moment whether on the subway, neighborhoods, streets or public spaces, paying close attention to your appearance becomes a requirement.


Street style ranges from pop idol influenced urban wear to high fashion looks that are unique and trendy or simple but sleek. College students dress more professional as the ladies forego backpacks for totes, and you probably won’t see anyone wearing sweatpants or jammies in public. By American standards, guys have the metro look down pat with artful hair that tends to go asymmetrical and volumized in the front (as the men here have a different standard of “manliness”). Bowl cuts have managed to remain popular but with a creative twist. Man purses are also the norm, and don’t be surprised to see couples dressed alike, especially at the romantic Han River.


South Koreans are obsessed with skincare, and a 10-step beauty routine is a normal daily process in order to achieve that dewy, flawless face. It is also the largest market for men’s cosmetics, mostly in the form of BB cream for covering up facial blemishes. There’s even a Tony Moly ad that reads: “Real men don’t wear makeup…just BB cream.” Overall, Amorepacific Corp, which is the country’s largest cosmetic firm rose 127% in consumer stock in 2014.

In addition to all the obsession to skincare, it goes hand in hand with the spa culture of public Korean bathhouses that are sprinkled all throughout the country (which involve full body scrubdowns that will leave you feeling squeaky clean). South Korea may be a small nation, but it has quickly risen to become a global star in pop culture, beauty and fashion–all merged into one. So the next time you visit the country, don’t forget to leave without a fresh face–and perspective!

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