How do Chinese and Korean beauty standards differ?

Similar, yet different

The similarities are:

-Both countries prefer light skin tones over dark skin tones

-Both countries prefer slim bodies (sometimes to extremes as women constantly try to diet even though they don’t need to or is unhealthy)

-Both countries prefer bigger eyes over smaller eyes. In Korea the majority of plastic surgery is to get double eyelid surgery, to make the eyes look bigger. A major part of the makeup routine in both countries is to make the eyes look bigger as well.

The major difference is that Korea’s beauty standards are generally much more strict than China’s.

Because of this strict beauty standard, you’ll notice that on the streets of Korea:

-most Korean women wear makeup (like 90%+) whereas in China the number of women who wear makeup daily is still in the minority.

-Also you’ll notice that almost every Korean women does not wear glasses – they did lasik surgery or wear contacts instead – whereas for Chinese women it’s more of a 50/50 split. This is because in Korea, wearing glasses for women is universally considered ugly.

-You’ll also notice very few girls with short hair (I mean hair cut to the length of a guy’s haircut) in Korea, whereas in China you’ll see quite a few women with hair cut short like men.

-You’ll also notice in Korea that almost every girl wears feminine outfits. Dresses, skirts, stockings, high heels, platform shoes are worn by the majority of Korean women whereas again in China, it’s far more varied and you’ll see a lot of women wearing masculine outfits as well. You’ll see many girls wear skirt + stockings in the winter in Korea; in China I rarely if ever saw any girl wearing that in the winter, they mostly wear pants in the winter.

Below I have a few examples highlighting the differences:

Korean Air flight attendants

Air China flight attendants

Korean idol group AOA (I specifically chose this group since the members are all Korean)

Chinese idol group SNH48

Miss Korea

Miss China

Korean celebrities

Kim Tae-hee

Kim Sa-rang


Chinese celebrities

Li Bingbing

Fan Bingbing

Jane Zhang

I think these examples go well to highlight the beauty standard of Korea: super pale skin, crescent moon shaped eyes, red lips, v-jawline, high nose bridge, a slim figure.

You’ll notice that Chinese faces are a lot more varied, although the generally pale skin and slim figure is shared in common with Korea.

A lot of foreigners have a negative perception of Korean beauty standards because they feel that it makes every Korean girl looks the same, or the misconception that Korean women are not as naturally beautiful and they need plastic surgery to make them look all the same.

These are ignorant beliefs; Korea’s strict beauty standards come from the fact that they are a homogeneous nation (99% Korean) which makes them similar looking to begin with – but on top of that, they have a conformist culture that pressures them to dress or look like other Koreans.

Chinese do not have these strict beauty standards because they have over 50 ethnic groups in their country, Han Chinese interbreeded with numerous other races throughout and are more diverse as an ethnic group than Koreans, so its a lot more diverse to begin with, and as a result there’s a lot more flexibility in their beauty standard.

There’s no such thing as one beauty standard is better than another; diversity has its benefits and drawbacks. I just want to put this out as a disclaimer because a lot of people put down Korean beauty standards for this reason, and I feel that is not really fair.

Notice how body-wise Chinese and Korean women are very similar. but Chinese beauty standards for faces are much more varied. Some Chinese might prefer her face, other Chinese might prefer another face. For Koreans, they have a certain face type that every Korean girl wants to have and every Korean guy thinks is good looking. A Korean girl would probably fit the more flexible Chinese standards but a Chinese girl might not fit the stricter Korean standards. Hope this makes it more clear.

Bonus: lets hear about Chinese/Korean beauty standards from the people themselves

Korean girls on the street talk about their beauty standards

Chinese girls on the street talk about their beauty standards


Why is Modern Korean culture so shallow?

Why is it shallow? If you mean by they care about their physical appearance more – I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Our physical appearance is something that everyone always sees, and its the first thing people see about us. Whenever we buy a Macbook or an iPhone or gaze our eyes upon a stunning 4K OLED TV, or an Aston Martin, we are effectively being ‘shallow’ because we care about the appearance of other things in our life. So why not with people? We only have a limited amount of time on this Earth? Why not strive to improve our physical appearance as long as we have the youth and the time and capability to do so?

Koreans realize that there is value to be had in caring about appearance- actually all human beings subconsciously care about appearance (ask any guy who assigns ratings to girls on the scale of 1–10) – its just that Koreans realize this more than other people do. There’s value in looking good – people who look better are often treated better than ugly people – and this is true across different cultures. 
Ask anyone – How would you treat a guy who is wearing baggy shorts and a tshirt and completely bearded compared to that same person clean shaven wearing a suit? How would you treat a girl who is wearing slacks, hoodie and no makeup compared to the same girl wearing full makeup, one piece dress and high heels?
If your answer is ‘exactly the same’ then you are lying.

In any case there’s value to be had in caring about your outer beauty – (inner beauty of course is also important but it can’t be changed as easily) – and Koreans realize this. Other cultures are shallow too but in other ways. Why do Chinese people put so much value into showing off name brand items and wealth? Isn’t that a form of shallow-ness as well? Except in this case I would say there’s less benefit to be had. I would not treat someone who drove a Mercedes or carried a Louis Vuitton bag any different than someone who drove a Hyundai Accent and carried a no name wallet. And most people wouldn’t across the world. Perhaps in China there’s some value to be had but its not a transferable value. Unlike physical appearance which has transferable value anywhere in the world because EVERY CULTURE cares about physical beauty to some degree.Koreans just care about it more. And there’s nothing wrong with that.


Why does South Korea have the biggest beauty industry (cosmetics, fashion, cosmetic surgery, etc.) in all of Asia?

It’s a good question. I think – and this is my theory – the more diverse a country is, the more lax the beauty standards are. Why? Because when you have a diverse population, you cannot really enforce any beauty standards as everyone is so different.

Like in the USA, there’s so many different races and types of people. How can you have any effective beauty standard? Or China, which has something like 50+ different ethnicities living there. You can’t even push the same beauty standards that Northern Chinese have onto Southern Chinese, they are very different people. India? Yeah same thing, you can’t push one beauty standard onto 1.3+ billion people.

Korea is unique in that it is one of the only countries in the world, and might be the only developed country in the world – that consists of 99% one race. It’s utterly homogenous. Not only that but they have a collectivist culture where people stick together. This is basically the easiest environment in which a strict beauty standard could emerge.
-Small area and population? check
-Society is Confucist, conformist and collectivist? check
-99% one race? check

I mean, you might notice that even North Korean girls (the ones in the rich areas of Pyongyang at least) are better styled than the typical Chinese girl. A dictatorship where the people live like they are in the 1950s still have a higher beauty standard than China. Why is that? because of everything I said about Korea. Both North and South Korea are countries that are not diverse, are very uniform in thinking, with a small area and population.

This is Yeonmi Park, she is a North Korean girl who escaped North Korea and now lives in the US. Let’s face it – if you didn’t know she was North Korean, you would have thought she was a South Korean girl. You would not have thought someone so beautiful, was once struggling for food and survival in a destitute country, but its true. Something about Koreans (North and South) they innately care about their appearance more.

Edit: Japan as some people noted, is also very homogenous. They do have more population and somewhat more influence from indigenous people tho – that said Japan does have higher beauty standards than most other countries as well, probably second to Korea.

That’s my theory on why most countries in the world tend to have a very lax beauty standard, and Korea uniquely seems to have a high beauty standard.

Strangely enough, What do non-Koreans dislike about Korean culture and Korean people? non-Koreans seem to hate on Koreans for having a high beauty standard, which I don’t understand. We don’t hate on countries for having a high education or athletic standard, why is beauty different? Is being more beautiful seen as a negative thing?