Stories of physical beauty are not new to K-dramas. Pretty sons and beautiful daughters from well-offs Chaebol Families are the norm, while characters from a lower economic status appear less noticeably attractive but nonetheless charming. Even more common is the plot in which the less attractive character has difficulty making friends, making a career or finding trustworthy relationships because of his appearance. Makeovers and transformations are often part of the repertoire, which in turn increases self-confidence and strengthens the characters. In fact, sometimes it’s the looks of the main characters that drive the story forward.
K-dramas that subtly or openly discuss Korean standards of beauty can potentially affect viewers’ perception of beauty. Because of this, it is important to view these K-dramas with reasonable understanding, guidance, and discretion from the viewer. K-dramas still have a long way to go before engaging in frank conversation, telling well-researched and thoughtful stories on the subject of beauty.
However, there are dramas that show that, in the end, there is more to beauty than meets the eye. They discuss important lessons that need to be learned when it comes to body positivity, even with some clumsy, flawed statements.
Note: The term “overweight” used here is not based on the BMI or scientifically proven health tables. It simply refers to what K-dramas consider “overweight”. The term used is not intended to offend readers. Some plot descriptions may contain spoilers.
“Perfume”: Your true self will always shine, no matter what.
Often times ahjummas are stereotyped as curious, suspicious gossip and pushy middle-aged women. In reality, they are the backbone of a Korean family. They sacrifice all of their time and effort to attend to family needs while neglecting themselves. This is exactly what happened to Min Jae Hee (played by Ha Jae Sook /. Go won hee), a devoted housewife who always puts her family first, forgets about self-care and never stands up for herself. Her husband looks down on her because of her weight and cheats on her with another woman. Jae Hee then finds a mysterious perfume that turns her into a young, beautiful woman. Could this be your chance to realize your lifelong dream of becoming a model? Is that the key to a new love life?
“Perfume” is a romantic K-drama that has many comedic roles but is also immersed in the harshness of society and the fashion industry. There are some groundbreaking plus-size models on the runways around the world these days, but this is rarely the case in Korea. Without the perfume that transformed her, Jae Hee would not be able to make her dream come true. But that’s also why Jae Hee recognizes her potential and can escape her miserable life. In the end fashion designer Seo Yi Do (Shin sang rok) Jae does not recognize Hee because she is pretty, but because she reminds him of his childhood treasure. What is also great about this drama is that he loves her for who she is, her own original selves, or her “scent” without the “perfume”.
“Birth of beauty“: Happiness cannot be achieved through a” body of vengeance “or revenge on others.
Another double-digit K-drama starring actress Ha Jae Sook is Birth of the Beauty, in which she plays Geum Ran, a woman who is betrayed by her husband and mistreated by her in-laws for her looks. Devastated after being abandoned, she is involved in a car accident and falls off a cliff. Everyone thinks she is dead, but in reality she survived the crash and underwent cosmetic surgery all over her body and face to take revenge on those who wronged her. She transforms into the stunning Sara (Han Ye Seul) with the help of Dr. Han Tae Hee (Joo sang Wook) who takes care of her and becomes her accomplice. During her revenge, she realizes that she is still the same Ahjumma who longs to be loved – and that it still doesn’t make her happy no matter how severe the damage she does to her ex-husband. Han Tae Hee eventually falls in love with her and accepts all of her past and imperfections.
“My ID is Gangnam Beauty”: Confidence doesn’t come straight away from physical beauty.
Kang Mi Rae (I am Soo Hyang) grows up with a huge insecurity complex after being bullied by classmates for her looks. The bullying gets so bad that all she has to do is undergo plastic surgery to finally leave all of her inner demons and attackers behind and start over in college. She even defies her father to achieve this. However, rumors soon spread that she was a “Gangnam beauty,” a derogatory Korean term for someone who is superficial and obsessed with going under a knife to change his appearance beyond recognition. This K-drama is a constant monologue within Mi Rae as she battles her insecurities even after she’s gotten pretty and meets all standards. Another character showing this fight is Soo Ah (Jo woo ri), a popular “university goddess” known for her natural beauty and gaiety. But deep down, she still craves attention and manipulates other people to get what she wants.
The “University Prince” Do Kyung Suk (Cha eun woo) knows Mi Rae from high school and has been in love with her ever since. The K-drama shows both sides of plastic surgery: that one, sometimes it is really necessary and if it helps you improve your life then just listen to yourself. On the other hand, even if you are undergoing plastic surgery, not all of your problems will magically go away. Mental health and promoting self-esteem and self-worth should also be considered before making a life changing decision. In the end, Mi Rae realizes that she also had to work on her inner self in order to become a full person and fully love herself before she could love another person.
“My Lovely Sam Soon” & “She was pretty”: Talent and intelligence make a person even more beautiful.
We all know that physical beauty is not the only criterion that makes a person beautiful. Kim Sam Soon (Kim Sun Ah) is a trained pastry chef in her thirties who is always made fun of because of her age and weight. It is described as having no college degree, no apartment or car, and no boyfriend. However, that does not prevent her from living her best life as she will fight for herself and what she believes in and will continue to work hard. Her straightforward personality and “ordinaryness” attracted Hyun Jin Hun (Hyun Bin), a handsome entrepreneur who has had his own trauma. He loves her because she offers something real in his controlled life, while in turn she has no need to change anything about herself.
“She was pretty” is like a reversal of fate. Kim Hye Jin (Hwang Jung Eum) “Lost her beauty” as she got older and grew into a reddish face, freckles and curly hair, while Ji Sung Joon (Park Seo Joon) was a chubby boy who grew up to be a fit, handsome, and dashing head of a publishing house. Hye Jin is not exactly the ideal candidate for a magazine company, but her excellent editing skills and ingenuity make her one of the most valued employees. She hides from her true identity by telling her more popular and attractive friend Min Ha Ri (Go jun hee) to fill in their place to meet their childhood best friend, Sung Joon. Little does she know that Sung Joon cannot forget her good childhood memories, her quirks and her friendliness, which is why he feels little or no connection with Ha Ri. It’s the bond they shared and the undeniable chemistry that holds them together for all appearances.
Both K-dramas share the same teaching that the talent and skills of the leading actors override what other people say or think about their looks and ultimately, they make them beautiful.
“Oh my venus” and “True beauty”: You can achieve beauty in your own way.
Kang Joo Eun (Shin Min Ah) is a woman in her thirties who has achieved a lot at her age: a great career as a lawyer and a stable relationship. Even so, she still doesn’t get the respect she deserves as the people around her always give her the side eye because of her weight. Her boyfriend eventually drops her, leaving her self-esteem at an all-time low. Then she decides to take matters into her own hands and train under Kim Yeong Ho (So Ji Sub), a celebrity trainer helping her achieve her fitness and love goals. This K-drama shows the hard work, commitment, and time it takes for the mainline to achieve physical transformation. It’s not just an “instant fix” as other K-dramas have shown. While on her fitness journey, she also experiences changes along the way: she finds new friendships, confidence, and the love of her life.
In “True Beauty”, Lim Ju Gyeong (Moon ga young) is a high school girl who is upbeat and energetic but has difficulty adjusting because of her appearance. Your co-workers often harass and bring them down. She decides to learn makeup by watching YouTube videos. After a long process of trial and error, she finally finds a way to highlight her features and make herself look pretty. She moves to another school where no one can recognize her except Lee Su Ho (Cha eun woo), a pretty student who she knows and sees beyond her “mask”. While struggling to find herself in the mounting pains of high school, she dons both Su Ho and Han Seo Jun (Hwang in yeop) not because of their “made-up face”, but because of their kind-hearted personality and willingness to help others in need.
What these two dramas have in common is the message that you can try to change certain parts of yourself if you are not satisfied – but in a healthy way, with caution and careful consideration. They also share that a slim figure and a pretty face are not everything, just additional qualities that are still subordinate to inner beauty. Most of these dramas show that no matter what they look like, a person should not be judged or shamed because no one really knows a person’s skills, talents, or feelings. Everyone strives to be loved and accepted for who they really are. Size cannot be measured by looks alone.