21 July 2013

The Korean "Body Lines"

As a fair point to make from the jump of this post, Korean beauty standards are out of control impossible to achieve in basically every form.  Women are expected to have the body of a young Western male, the face of a European goddess, the hair of a Brazilian centerfold, and the skin of a person who sits inside an air conditioned building all day moisturizing her face with products made from gold.  That being said, the most interesting thing about Korean beauty culture to me is the "body line" standard.  The powers that be to dictate women's beauty practices in Korea have named each distinct build (think apple or pear shaped as a reference to something more relatable) by putting a single letter before the suffix -line.  Basically they've chosen the letter based on the letter 'shape' that a woman's body resembles from a front facing view or a side view.  When I first heard about this, I brushed it off like another one of those weird Korean girl things, but the more I heard about it and read about it on the internet the more intrigued I was.  Which body "line" is best?  Sexiest?  Healthiest?  Most popular?  Most common?

This image is not mine, but the text is - thanks Google!

Of course every culture has its own ideals of what is beautiful, what looks good, and what to strive for.  In the states, women with tiny waists and larger chests are considered feminine.  Lately there has been a booty craze too, which is good for people like me who simply can not lie (and Miley Cyrus, who simply can not twerk but thinks she can, poor darling).  We wear makeup, we have plastic surgery, we spend tons of money on cosmetics and clothing and SPANX and stuff to make us look good.  So by no means am I saying that this aspect of Korean culture is weird or strange, but I find the fascination with the many different ways our bodies can be shaped very interesting.

First things first, there are very few overweight people here in Korea.  I am considered morbidly obese and I had an orthopedic surgeon tell me that I needed to lose weight on one of my more interesting hospital visits a few months ago.  This makes me feel very good about myself.  Anyway, most women here are naturally thin to begin with.  They aren't particularly strong (very little muscle mass, or maybe just very little time spent building said muscle mass), but they're very thin and they really like to show off their legs!  Shoulders, no.  Legs, yes.  Upper back, no.  Upper thigh?  You bet.  Very strange indeed.  I had not personally noticed this, but talking with a (Korean) friend the other week he mentioned that many women here get breast implants on top of all of the other procedures so commonly linked with Korea (nose, jaw, eyelid).  Naturally I do not think that many Korean women are large chested or have big wide baby birthing hips.  Which is strange because the first body-line that I heard about is made up of exactly those two things!

The S line:
If you look at the side profile of a woman's body and you can trace the line of her figure like an S, she is probably not Korean.  Or at least not naturally Korean.  The S line is characterize by a larger chest and booty, which are two stereotypically un-Korean (can I say that?) body traits.  There is one Korean singer/actress named Son Dam Bi that is well-known for her "S-line" body.  I still think she looks incredibly thin and doesn't quite fit the mold in my mind, but everyone's entitled to their own opinion I suppose!  She is lovely, though.

The X line:
The X line is most easily described just as the letter looks.  Imagine the meeting point of the two lines is the waist, and the chest and hips expand.  Of course this body take is basically completely impossible to achieve if you're a human, but that doesn't make it any less appealing.  From what I found, this body type is the ideal for younger women, high school or college aged Korean girls said they aimed for this or thought this type was the best.  This is the most worrisome "body type" to me because of how incredibly impossible it is to achieve.  This can also be referred to as the 8 line, but I find the X to be much more common and definitive.

The V line:
This doesn't so much refer to a body shape as much as it does to the face, but since we're talking letters I couldn't leave it out!  The V-line is terrifying to me.  Basically, Korean people do not have naturally pointed chins, they have rounder faces and - as logic would follow - rounder chins.  The entire concept behind a V-line is to have your jaw come to a V-point which creates the look of a smaller face, and small faces are viewed as being quite beautiful here.  If you've ever wondered why Korean girls pose with their fists or peace-sign hands in front of their faces, it's because they're trying to block their face from the picture.  They want to create an illusion of having a smaller face or a sharper jaw line, and they do so by using their hands in various ways.  That's all well and fine, but the horrifying part of the V-line craze is the plastic surgery procedure that goes along with it.

  Yes, women have their jaws reshaped and shaved down to be less round and more sharp.  I can't even imagine how excruciatingly painful that recovery must be.  I say stick with the peace signs.  This term can also apply to cleavage, for obvious reasons.

  She looks super Korean.
Pardon me - Chinese. Thanks for the million comments notifying me of this, random internet folks.

The U line:
So earlier I wrote that showing your shoulders/back in considered somewhat taboo here, like it's a super sexy part of your body?  Well the U line is the word used to describe when a woman's back is exposed, or has low cut clothing in the back.

 If this girl was on the subway, she would surely be told off by a group of angry elderly Korean women.  I know I have been, and covering up much more!

The 1/8 line:
Not only is having a small face considered beautiful, but a small head in general.  Sometimes I will see kids closing one eye, measuring someone's head between their index finger and thumb, then using that measurement to determine the number of heads that could fit into that person's body height wise.  If your head accounts for 1/8th of your body, that's good, you have a small head!  Side note: my head is MASSIVE so I'm pretty sure if a Korean kid ever did this math equation on me they would think I was a hideous monster.

Here's a link to an EYK video that talks a little bit about beauty standards and ideals in Korea if you're interested to know more.  I think it's pretty entertaining.  Anyway, just wanted to sure some more weird stuff I've been learning around in Korea.  I feel like every passing month I become more interested in Korean culture, or language, or something about this place.  I've really begun to feel at home here, and the more comfortable I've gotten the easier it's become to want to dig deeper into the society and try to understand what makes Koreans, well, Korean!  I have a few more ideas for future blog posts, too.  I hope you found this as strangely fascinating as I did!  ^-^


  1. where's the link?

  2. Actually, the girl with the picture that you posted with the captions "because she is SUPER KOREAN" is actually from hongkong. She is a blogger named xiaxue, and i tell youthat she doesn't have even a bit of a korean blood in her. But nice post BTW ^^

    1. Xiaxue is from Singapore and is Chinese.

    2. She's from Singapore not hongkong.

  3. Also, i have a question. i saw a person that when on her side, she has the S line, but when i looked at her on her front, she has the Xline. Is that even possible? ^^

  4. the girl you said "Yeah, because she looks SUPER Korean." is not korean, is chinese and live in singapure, her nik name is Xiaxue and she do "xiaxue's guide to life" on youtube and have a blog too

  5. I have some more "lines" for you. I had a baby a little over a year ago and my once reliably small stomach has decided it wants to gain all my weight there. So I went to my gym tonight and talked to a trainer. He took my weight and skeletal mass and what-not and then informed me that I am "C-Line," which is "very dangerous." But after 12 sessions with him, I can be an "I-line." It will take at least 6 months but probably more to achieve "D-line" according to him. C-line is obviously a woman with a baby belly. I-line looked like a stick and D-line looked really strong, which totally threw me off. Oh Koreans!

  6. that blonde asian, isn't even korean to begin with
    her name is xiaxue and shes singaporean
    is there something wrong with how she looks?
    bc your post made it sound her sound bad.
    just because shes asian, doesn't mean she can't try out blonde hair or blue eyes. she still looks chinese. if an african american woman went blonde people she would still look black.

    1. I think she is trying to look like someone she is not. Plenty of women do that all over the world. Perhaps you missed the beginning of my post where I stated: "Of course every culture has its own ideals of what is beautiful, what looks good, and what to strive for. (...) So by no means am I saying that this aspect of Korean culture is weird or strange, but I find the fascination with the many different ways our bodies can be shaped very interesting."

      So when I see a woman here in the states that looks really overdone with chemical injections or plastic implants, I think, "god that doesn't look natural." I think a similar thing when I see women who are striving to be someone or something that they simply are not in any part of the world, it doesn't particularly matter where they come from. It's not "bad," like you state, as that's a really relative term and can be used in any way a person wants. I find it a little bit sad and confusing, to be honest.

  7. Tbh this is really offensive and you clearly don't understand Asian beauty standards at all. 'Korea is so sad, they treat their women so badly, it's so pathetic how brainwashed they all are. Oh, but i guess she's pretty' honestly, just stop

    1. I'm confused as to why you put a sentence in quotes that doesn't even come from my post. I'm not sure why you feel so threatened by what I wrote here. I read your comment, reread my post, and am still confused as to where the link is that you've made between my observations of the expectations of women in Korean society, and those women being "pathetic" and "brainwashed" (notice: the correct way to quote somebody, by using words that they themselves actually wrote). So I guess that's too bad you find this mild commentary so incredibly offensive, but I think it's pretty indicative of a deeper issue that you may have with the culture (whether it be your own or not, I can't tell based on your anonymous comment handle) than so much my take on it.

  8. And also, in the post just previously you say that 'Korea is super on top of their beauty game'. So you want to diss the intelligence of korean women , but unlike them, you're able to process how wrong it is? That is such a pathetic, ignorant and condescending Western view to have. News flash: if you actually knew Korean women properly, you would know that they aren't brainwashed, that they are aware of media influences on concepts of beauty just as much as you are of Western media beauty standards. So keep your stupid judgemental beak outside of Korean women's lives because you honestly know nothing.

    1. Can you clarify the part of my post where I "diss on the intelligence of Korean women" and insinuate that they can't process that the beauty industry's standards are bullshit, basically? Thanks!