"Escape the Corset" Favorite 



May 10 2019


Seoul South Korea

In this black-and-white image, there are no strands of hair or remnants of makeup to be found, except a shaved head belonging to a South Korean. Jeon photographed this image in 2019 for her exhibition that aimed to "destroy the socially defined idea of a woman” (Kuhn 1). The visuals in this image is a brazen response to the conventional beauty standards that has been gripping South Korean women. The social pressures they are expected to diligently uphold are often unrealistic: big-round eyes, pale skin, and V-shaped chin line.

Women often encounter these social pressures on a daily basis. The popular mode of public transport when commuting to work is the bus and subway (Jang 1). A particular subway station in Gangnam is littered with advertisements of plastic surgery centers, and the subsequent reactions to these ads were often complaints of promoting an unrealistic view towards body image and beauty.

The “escape the corset” movement not only aims to call out social pressures that conform women to a specific set of rigid beauty standards but is also an act of promoting free expression of the self, often weighed down by chauvinistic, anti-feminist views rampantly growing in South Korea. This specific idea of beauty has been rampant in South Korean culture since the traditional tendency for women to exchange their bodies as an “asset for social and economic status” in marriage (Kuhn 1). Additionally, the notions of gender equality with beauty standards being the subtext are still steps away from being widely favored in Korean politics. President Yoon who was elected in 2022 pledged to remove the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, sparking outcry from activists who “feared it would undermine women’s rights” (Yonhap). With this act and more controversial views towards gender equality, women find it harder to promote self-expression freely amid the political terrain and navigating around the rise of anti-feminism recently sweeping over Korea.

Posted by rkim1023 on

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