The rise of South Korean entertainers to pop culture dominance has been one of the odder stories of the 21st Century. It’s a little like the British Invasion of the 1960s.
An article in The Diplomat that is relatively informative by the standards of the genre, argues that the rise of pale-skinned Koreans has made Southeast Asian women even more obsessive about whitening their skins:
There are no signs that this deep-rooted trend is subsiding, despite recent media attention.
By Ana Salvá
December 02, 2019
… White skin may have long been an essential characteristic of Thai beauty, Jaray said, but that concept of “whiteness” has shifted.
“In Thai classical literature, heroines who are described as having a fair complexion, as if painted with gold, are considered as beautiful,” he said. “So, it’s the different shade of white that was a standard in the past. After the Western and Korean influences, the preferred shade is pinkish white.”
I believe Japanese geisha girls used to use white makeup even before Commodore Peary arrived.
All over the world, the Fair Sex tends to be slightly fairer than the male sex, which suggests that the assumption that fairness in women is a secondary sex characteristic. This subtle difference in average skin tone between the sexes used to be well-known, but the increase in racial diversity makes it harder to notice this.
Indeed, the soaring popularity of Korean entertainment – especially pop music and television dramas – has exacerbated this obsession with white skin. Jaray said the trend began about 20 years ago when a Korean costume drama, “Dae Jang Guem,” which told the story of a female doctor elevated from being a royal maid during the historical Joseon period, became popular in Thailand, driving a new demand for Korean food and products.
“The images of Korean actors and beauty products have become common features of Thai entertainment sectors,” he said. “Korean-style beauty has therefore become synonymous with universal beauty for many Thais.” The proliferation of Korean beauty-related businesses in Thailand and their successful marketing have promoted Korean beauty standards; features include a V-shaped face, pearl-white skin, and a pointed, slender nose.
“I’ve heard a number of Thai tour operators have organized beauty surgery tours to Korea as their customers are very keen to have the same look as their favorite stars,” Jaray said. Indeed, there are television programs, such as “Let Me In Thailand” and a spin-off, “Let Me In Reborn,” that recruit people with facial disfigurements to compete for the chance to have plastic surgery in South Korea.
Or perhaps the rise of K-Pop has to do with the Asian prejudice for fair women?