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Idol Culture And East Asia Essay

2322 words - 10 pages

From celebrity endorsed product advertisements to Reality Television programs on cosmetic surgery, the commercialized nature of ‘Idol culture’ has become crucial in reforming beauty ideals and perceptions of masculinity and femininity amongst mainstream society in East Asia. Due to the drastic popularity of South Korean Idol groups both nationally and throughout East Asia including China, Japan and Taiwan women and men have been increasingly more exposed to sexualized imagery of ‘desirable’ bodies (Epstein and Joo 2012). This has generated an international idealism of the ‘Korean body’ as a national symbol representing South Korea’s participation in the global arena. Media liberalization during the 1990s increased the presence of Korean culture across Asia, especially China through CCTV network that aired Korean drama programs primarily due to cheaper programming costs (Shim 2011). As a result of the popularity gained by Korean music and movie stars, large companies started using ‘Idols’ to endorse their products. Idol endorsements are especially popular in the market saturated beauty and cosmetics industry, however this has essentially fueled a reformation of standardized beauty ideals (Schwekendiek, Yeo & Ulijaszek 2013). This basic marketing strategy used to encourage consumers aspirations of having the large eyes and smooth skin of their favourite Korean stars has created a cultural on-flow stimulating a growing cosmetic surgery market. No longer are ‘whitening’ products sufficient to satisfy the needs of a beauty driven society in declaring their economic status. Consumers now believe the coveted ‘V-shape’ face, double eyelids and straight nose are essential to success and are not shy of altering their appearance for a competitive edge (Chiu 2013).

Basic body modifications to achieve beauty ideals can be seen in the form of cosmetics and skin-care. Globally we can see how women and increasingly more men participate in altering their appearance to achieve smoother, younger skin and a flawless complexion. In countries such as South Korea, China, Taiwan and Japan consumers desire paler skin tones thus promoting a flourishing whitening industry and products such as the popular BB creams. This desire originates from the association of skin colour with wealth and economic position, since historically pale skin indicated affluence due to not needing to participate in physical labour (Gaya 2012). Nowadays this association of beauty with skin tone is presented by celebrites such as Korean pop stars who represent beauty and promote this ideal to mainstream society. Whereas white skin is perceived as ‘pure’ and ‘innocent’ with its doll-like porcelain appeal, darker or ‘tan’ skin tones often categorize stars as ‘sexy’ due the exotic feel (Gaya 2012). Korean stars are heavily scrutinized for their appearance and as such are subjected into media characterizations such as the ‘sexy’ or ‘cute’ member of a group. As media objectifies stars as certain...

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