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The Rise of Eating Disorders Through KPop

How Kpop Culture Affects the Way We Look at Our Bodies

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As our society becomes more and more influenced by Korean Pop culture, it’s important to recognize the pitfalls that come along with this rising trend.

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What sparked my interest?

-Kpop is something that I recently started listening to; I was never a big fan of music, but something about the style of the Korean songs and the idea of “groups” stood out to me. At a surface level, the idols seem beautiful and happy while doing their jobs, but deep under the bonds of their pretty faces lies a constricting contract and the need to conform to conform with societal beauty standards.

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BEFORE DIVING DEEPER…

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THE CHALLENGE:

The prevalence of eating disorders in our society today has caused people to try and achieve beauty standards that are far beyond our reach. These traits are characterized by skinny arms, an “almond shaped face” (skinny at the chin), and most importantly, long “chopstick” legs.

Within the world of Kpop, so many people are influenced by this look. The idols have to struggle to maintain their shape under the constant pressure of social media, and the viewers starve themselves in order to look like their “perfect” idols.

I originally came to notice these things because in the Kpop youtube videos I watched, everyone would be commenting on how in-shape or not in-shape the idols were.

  • “Her legs got fatter; she shouldn’t be able to dance with everyone else.” – comment on Red Velvet’s KCON comeback
  • “Why is his face so big?” – comment to EXO’s MV
  • “She is so ugly and way too skinny… You can see her ribcage…” – comment to Wendy’s Red Flavour MV

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An ideal example of Korea’s “chopstick legs” trend

How do idols cope with the stress of looking great all the time?

Some of the singers use methods like eating certain things only or exercising, but quite simply, many believe that “just starving yourself” is the way to go”. They believe that it’s easier than counting calories or calculating the healthiness of a meal.

Lee Hyo Min, An aspiring dancer from a Seoul-based college dance group, said that “a slim figure takes priority over long-term well-being” when asked about the potential risks of starving herself. These comments were pretty similar from person to person, with every dancer placing the importance of looking good over being healthy. Having this type of mindset can bring actual eating disorders into the question; a diet consisting of no food can continue on and on until one develops anorexia or any other disorder.

 

GLOBAL INVASION OF KOREAN CULTURE

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THE SOLUTION: How can we raise awareness of an issue that is highly that is highly appealing to so many?

  • Raise awareness about eating disorders and the consequences that come with them.
    • This seems like such an important step, but it is definitely the most important one. Letting everyone know that consequences like permanent trauma or death can prevent people from spiraling into the hole of of an eating disorder.
  • Reply to rude/harsh comments on Kpop videos
    • The next time you see a comment like “she’s so fat” or “her arms are as big as my legs” on Youtube, reply to them and tell them about the constant pressure they’re under to stay fit. Because of people like those commenters, these idols are starving themselves to fit into their standards. These people need to be educated about the harsh consequences that the stars face because of their words.
  • Let everyone around you know that Kpop advertises relatively unachievable standards.
    • Just like magazines advertise photoshopped models, Kpop advertises Asian bodies that are practically impossible to achieve. These idols have spent their entire lives working to look like that, and they also starve themselves in the process. In order to maintain a healthy life, their look should not be the goal.
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To The Audience:

  • Thanks for reading my project! If you have any comments/feedback/questions about my project, you can email me at cshen19@students.polytechnic.org
    • My question for all of you is: Has your perspective on the world of KPop changed after reading this wordpress page?
      • Feel free to leave comments down below

What will I do?

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As an avid user of sites like reddit and youtube, I will make threads that raise awareness of this problem as well as go through KPOP videos and respond to rude comments. Although these actions seem like such a small things with no impact, every comment/upvote can be another person that this topic has touched. In the future, I hope that this wordpress will inspire all of you to do the same!


SOURCES CITED:

https://www.theodysseyonline.com/eating-disorder-controlling-life

https://www.allkpop.com/forum/threads/kpop-herald-red-velvet-wendys-weight-loss-rumor-of-eating-disorder.87513/

http://www.myproana.com/index.php/topic/663406-what-kpop-idols-do-you-suspect-have-eating-disorders/

https://picsart.com/i/sticker-korean-korea-kpop-png-cute-red-heart-236007116030212

http://www.thejakartapost.com/life/2016/09/27/dangerously-skinny-k-pop-girl-groups.html

https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/k-town/8030059/kpop-body-image-diets-eating-disorders-essay

http://www.sbs.com.au/popasia/blog/2014/07/15/kpop-star-iu-opens-about-her-eating-disorder

http://www.thejakartapost.com/life/2016/09/27/dangerously-skinny-k-pop-girl-groups.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reddit

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COMMENTS: 14
  1. April 28, 2018 by Rikako.Kent

    Chanel, great project on the stresses of being a K-pop idol and it’s negative implications. The Korean Pop industry is definitely harsh and maintaining a certain image is vital to them, leading to consequences for many of their idols. It truly is unfortunate that the media sometimes doesn’t see problems with their unhealthy image and promotes this habit of not eating to look a certain way. I will implement the solutions you raised. Good job!

  2. April 28, 2018 by andrew namkoong

    Chanel, I really enjoyed looking at this app. Visually, it is enticing, and as a person who is ethnically Korean, and enjoys listening to K-Pop, I find this issue particularly alarming. Perhaps adding a system of feedback or polls for people to provide their personal feedback. Other than that, I enjoyed the slideshows and pictures and believe that they feed into the purpose of your presentation.

  3. April 29, 2018 by Crawford Asman

    Hey Chanel, first off, I think the topic you chose is one that is unique and very intriguing as there does seem to be a rise in stress levels for people in today’s society, with body image being one of the primary causes. Furthermore, I thoroughly enjoyed all of your visuals as they provided a good support and base for the information in your project.

  4. April 30, 2018 by Annika.Singh

    This is such an interesting topic. I like that you chose a topic that is very unique and I’m sure not many people have thought about. I don’t really listen to K-pop, but I know lots of people who do. It is not just unhealthy for the singers to be that sick, but it also sends the wrong message to the people who listen to their music about body image. Really great job!

    • April 30, 2018 by Chanel Shen

      Thank you! I think it’s really important for people to know that the KPOP industry affects both idols and the viewers, so I’m glad that you recognize this fact. Since you don’t listen to Kpop, I encourage you to take a look at some of the Youtube videos online. Visualizing the information can be helpful too. 🙂 Again, thanks so much for taking time to look at my project!

  5. April 30, 2018 by Maddie Koo

    Hi Chanel, you chose such an interesting topic I feel like many people would not have dug into when looking at eating disorders. I think, like you said, small actions count and your “call to action” of commenting back to these rude comments can definitely be a risky thing to do, but definitely necessary, so nice job! in general, your slideshow, youtube videos, and examples were all very engaging and I’m starting to grow awareness for other ways media, etc. portrays eating disorders and how to step up and fix that!

    • April 30, 2018 by Chanel Shen

      I’m glad that you enjoyed my page! I’ve gotten good feedback from people as well as some backlash about the commenting thing, but so far, it’s going well. Thank you so much!

  6. April 30, 2018 by CC Yin

    Hi Chanel, I think this is a fantastic topic! I did my project regarding body image in the media… which is a similar concept. However, I love how your topic is so specific! You also have lots of detail, information, and engaging content… great job!!

    • April 30, 2018 by Chanel Shen

      Hi! Thanks so much for looking at my project. Your topic is a broader one that is definitely extremely important as well. I think that the media has influenced society so much that people often forget to take a step back and look at everything realistically.

  7. April 30, 2018 by Nicole Hsing

    Hi Chanel, I really loved your topic, especially being Asian myself and finding korean idol groups at an extremely young age as my role models. I think it is incredibly important to raise awareness of the unhealthiness of the stature of their bodies, despite being praised by it in the media. I loved your idea of raising awareness via social media, where you can reach thousands of people while also combating the very platform that idolizes their bodies. Great work!

  8. April 30, 2018 by Genevieve.Clay

    Hey Chanel, I think this was an amazing topic to research. Looking at the before and after photos, it was scary to see how thin some of the Kpop artists had become. I liked how you included quotes like Lee Hyo Min’s which honestly terrifies me, because these people are putting their aesthetics ahead of their health. Overall this was a fantastic project, nice job!

  9. April 30, 2018 by Jessica Gould

    Hey Chanel – Thanks for letting me know the site was back up, I really enjoyed looking through your info. This is a topic that I find so fascinating as I have seen the rise of Kpop since the 90s. I also really like your “call to action” to get folks involved in the greater conversation about using shaming language on the internet.

    One resource you may enjoy about kpop more generally – https://www.wnycstudios.org/story/i-hart-k-pop/

  10. May 01, 2018 by Jason.Haas

    Hello, and you put together quite an interesting project. When you say “as our society becomes…influenced by Korean Pop Culture”, which society do you mean? That of the US/Western world? South Korea (if the issue is related to pop culture and not solely Korean culture)? Or is it ultimately an issue which affects the entire world and society as a whole? Whichever way, great job!

  11. May 02, 2018 by Sofia

    Hi Chanel!

    I think this is a really important and relevant topic! It is really important because Kpop is getting more and more popular, which means that it can influence larger audiences. I think the concept of “chop stick” legs is not good and a bit scary.

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