‘Single’s Inferno’ and South Korea’s Obsession with Beauty

Christy Joshy – Social Media Editor

With the rise of Korean pop music or K-pop, South Korea’s entertainment industry is booming. More and more international viewers are tuning into Korean dramas, films and shows. However, with this relatively newfound fame that South Korea’s entertainment industry is receiving comes a lot of criticism. One example is the new Netflix dating show, Single’s Inferno.

Single’s Inferno showcases attractive Korean singles on a deserted island for nine days. During those nine days, they must “couple up” with another contestant so they can escape to Paradise, a hotel containing luxuries and privacy—a refreshing contrast from the sweltering Inferno. 

However, much like the temperature of Inferno, international viewers are heating up due to the behavior displayed by some of the contestants on the show. One male contestant, by the name of Moon Se-hoon, described female contestant Shin Ji-yeon as “So white and pure.”

Another male contestant, Choi Si-hun, also added, “I like people who have light skin,” when describing his ideal partner. These comments regarding appearances sparked much controversy as a discussion on South Korea’s harmful beauty standards emerged. 

The idea that pale, light-skinned women should be associated with purity and frailty is declining in Western society, but not so much in South Korea. Products and procedures marketed towards skin-lightening remain in high demand and have seemingly gained normalcy. Despite the country’s incredible technological and economic advances, South Korea seems to be trailing behind in dismantling extreme societal expectations.

For avid fans of Korean entertainment, it’s no surprise that a staggering majority of entertainers in the industry undergo numerous procedures and surgeries to achieve a look that satisfies Korea’s standards. 

Single’s Inferno is no exception, as several fans suspect that the attractive contestants haven’t always looked this way. Dr. Charles S. Lee, a plastic surgeon who is famous on the social media platform TikTok, even posted a video claiming that all but one contestant most likely had some procedure done to achieve their look, which leads one to question if South Korea’s beauty standards are realistic—even for its own people.

Eurocentric ideals are rampant throughout Asia and much of the Eastern world, and South Korea is no exception. 

According to Business Insider, studies have shown that one in three women in South Korea from 19-29 undergoes plastic surgery. The most common procedure is double-eyelid surgery, which shapes the eye to appear larger and more prominent. 

Other common surgeries include nose surgeries and glutathione injections, which aid in lightening the skin. The Korean beauty standard defines these features as “the most beautiful” but isn’t concerned with the financial and psychological consequences. 

As most Korean entertainers have undergone some procedures, it can have profound emotional impacts on viewers at home who don’t have the luxury of altering their physical appearance. Many people idolize those they see on television and become disappointed and frustrated when faced with the mirror. Children are the most vulnerable, which reinforces the beauty standard in their minds and harms their perception of themselves, thus repeating the cycle.

Single’s Inferno is a stark reminder of just how demanding beauty standards can be. However, despite the controversy, it remains a popular up-and-coming source of entertainment for the world.

Image courtesy of Netflix


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