Beneath the Surface: The Struggles of Dismantling Lookism in Looks-Obsessed Korea


  • Katherine Yoon Editor


South Korea, Lookism, Feminism, Cosmetics, Plastic Surgery


Lookism––discrimination based on physical appearance––permeates daily life in South Korea. While researchers and critics have extensively discussed the roots of lookism and plastic surgery in Korea, little has been said on how to dismantle such an institutionalized beauty obsession—and how to adjust these goals in the wake of the Tal Corset (탈코르셋) or “Escape the Corset” movement. This article first provides a localized, critical analysis of lookism and its detrimental effects, demonstrating the potential for and necessity of resistance, especially when concerning lookism’s alarming impact on youth. Drawing on this exploration of lookism’s pervasiveness in Korean Society, the article observes the positive intentions and successes of Tal Corset’s approach. Next it details the movement’s failures to illuminate the powerful structures that wield lookism as a mechanism of control over women. Finally, it attempts to draw on these analyses to show that effective social change can only be realized with the acknowledgement and involvement of the various stakeholders and institutional barriers linked to lookism.