How Korean and American Expectations Affected, How I Felt About My Body

Kpop Star

Introduction

Korean and American media have different expectations of beauty. In Korea, to fit in, you pretty much had to look like a Kpop star. Being curvy was not the thing to aspire to. And that’s what I felt like from my family as well – we were all skinny and small-bodied compared with other women. It wasn’t until college that I started gaining weight (which is why my parents were so worried about it) but even then there were still some people who didn’t think it was okay for me because they thought “you just look like other Asians.”

By Daria Kim

I grew up in Korea and moved to the United States when I was 10. I knew my parents were Korean, but my grandparents were not. They were born in Korea and immigrated to America when they were young children, so they didn’t have any memories of living there before moving away from home.

My parents are quite traditional in many ways they still eat with chopsticks and don’t use forks or spoons (they just ask for what you want). This is important because it means that even though my mom loves cooking traditional foods such as kimchi or bibimbap, she doesn’t feel comfortable doing them herself. After all, she doesn’t know how! If someone else orders something like bulgogi (barbecued meats), however a dish that involves marinating and grilling meat over an open fire.

You pretty much had to look like a K-pop star

In Korea, to fit in, you pretty much had to look like a Kpop star. Being curvy was not the thing to aspire to.  I was the biggest eater in my family and I ate non-stop. But I didn’t gain any weight.

My mother said that if I got any thinner she would die from worry!

I was the biggest eater in my family and I ate non-stop

I was the biggest eater in my family and I ate non-stop. But I didn’t gain any weight.

  • At school, I was always the smallest student in my class and would always get made fun of by my classmates for being so skinny.
  • As a kid, all I wanted was to be a normal person who could eat whatever she wanted without gaining a pound or two on her body size.

I felt like I was too thin and underweight

My mother used to say that if I got any thinner, she would die from worry. She was very worried about how I looked because in Korea, to fit in, you pretty much had to look like a Kpop star. Being curvy was not the thing to aspire to. Fan culture frowns upon women who are overweight or have large thighs they’re seen as unattractive and less feminine than their thin counterparts.

I didn’t gain any weight during my first year abroad (which was weird), but then again I wasn’t trying too hard either way; it’s just what happens when you eat nonstop while living abroad!

In America, we saw women who looked different

In America, we saw women who looked different curvier more diverse – on tv and in movies. When I was growing up in Korea, my friends looked like me. The same was true for most of the Korean people around me: they had similar bodies to mine and their faces were also similar too. We didn’t have many options when it came to seeing women who weren’t skinny or stick-straight with no visible curves at all!

I felt self-conscious about my body because it wasn’t as thin or straight as those characters on American TV shows and movies (and especially not as tall).

Why couldn’t my body look like either?

In elementary school, I was in a class with a bunch of Korean kids who were very skinny. They all looked more like sticks than people and they seemed like they had never seen food before. When they came back from recess or lunchtime, their faces would look pale and sad because they’d gone too long without eating anything at all.

I felt like I was too thin and underweight. My mother said that if I got any thinner she would die from worry (although now she says this only happened once). She used to tell me that my cheeks were getting big she thought it would help my posture if I just ate more!

Conclusion

So I think that after going through all this, I’ve learned a lot about what Korean and American expectations of girls’ bodies mean for them. And I’m glad that I remember all these things so clearly now because it helped me understand what my own body looks like and how important it is to love yourself no matter what kind of body you have!

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