SEOUL, South Korea — Kim Ji-yeon knew she needed cosmetic surgery when she was 7. For the following 13 years, she destroyed photographs of herself till her dad and mom paid for double jaw surgical procedure, a process that requires breaking the jaw to realign it.

Then Ms. Kim began to query why she devoted a lot — $200 a month and two hours a day, she calculated — to her look. She reduce her hair brief. Then she crushed her make-up into items.

Ms. Kim, 22, is one in every of a rising group of South Korean girls rebelling towards their society’s inflexible magnificence requirements — a push they name “Escape the Corset.” Impressed partially by the worldwide #MeToo motion, which has shaken up politics and society in South Korea’s deeply patriarchal tradition, the ladies are difficult long-accepted attitudes about cosmetic surgery and cosmetics in one of many world’s most beauty-obsessed capitals.

“Misogyny is extra excessive in South Korea, and the sweetness trade has made it worse,” stated Ms. Kim.

Magnificence is huge in South Korea. It has the world’s highest price of beauty surgical procedure per capita, and it retains rising. It has change into a vacation spot for nip-and-tuck tourism. The wonder market — cosmetics and facial care merchandise like masks — generated $13 billion in gross sales final yr, in line with Mintel, making it one of many world’s prime 10 magnificence markets.

“The depth of feminism in South Korea is stronger than in different international locations as a result of girls actually are usually not a part of the political and financial management,” stated Yunkim Ji-yeong, an assistant professor of feminist philosophy on the Institute of Physique and Tradition at Konkuk College.

In that setting, Escape the Corset has discovered an viewers.

Then she takes off all of the make-up and tells the viewer, “Don’t be so involved with how others understand you. You’re particular and fairly the way in which you’re.”

“They’re type of like toys, like crayons,” stated Ms. Cha. She used to really feel like a second-class citizen, she stated, however now that she has stopped sporting make-up “individuals hearken to me once I say issues.”

The motion has sparked an unsightly backlash.

Ms. Bae, Ms. Kim and Ms. Cha, who all have bowl haircuts attribute of the motion, say they’ve change into targets of verbal abuse and dying threats. Ms. Kim was advised by two potential bosses that she didn’t look female sufficient. Feminists discuss their friends “popping out” publicly as a result of many desire to remain nameless.

Ms. Cha in an older photograph from earlier than she joined the “Escape the Corset” motion.Credit scoreJean Chung for The New York Occasions

“The violence towards individuals who go away the mainstream path may be very intense in South Korea in comparison with different international locations,” stated Search engine optimisation Sol, 26, who has a YouTube speak present about feminism referred to as “As a result of There Is Too A lot to Say.”

Yim Hyun-ju has skilled the criticism. The 33-year-old anchor at Munhwa Broadcasting Company, a nationwide broadcaster, determined to put on her glasses on her morning information present on April 12. Her pretend eyelashes had been making her eyes so drained that she was going by means of a bottle of synthetic tears daily.

It turned an internet sensation. “I didn’t assume it could change into information,” Ms. Yim stated.

Ms. Yim’s producers reproached her. Viewers wrote to complain. However girls got here as much as her in public to thank her. Now Ms. Yim wears her glasses every so often, an act that she says sends viewers a message to guage her based mostly on her competence and never her look. However she doesn’t wish to be recognized as a part of any motion.

“If I may act freely, I might apply make-up much less,” Ms. Yim stated.

“However I’m caught between my thoughts and coronary heart, which says one factor, however there may be the fact of my job,” she added.

Many ladies within the anti-corset motion credit score their actions as having had a small affect on the make-up trade. One latest advert, for the Missha cosmetics model, encompasses a short-haired mannequin and one with freckles. “Get out, expose your flaws and comply with your individual requirements relatively than others’,” it says. Nonetheless, they observe, the ladies within the advert largely stick with Korean magnificence requirements — and the ladies are sporting make-up.

Kim Hong-tae, a spokesman for In a position C&C, which owns the Missha model, stated the advert was meant to convey “that there isn’t a predetermined normal of bodily look.”

And the social stress to put on make-up and have a small, heart-shaped face remains to be sturdy. Im Soo-hyang stars in a Korean drama referred to as “My ID is Gangnam Magnificence,” a couple of younger lady who has cosmetic surgery and grapples with picture points. The identify refers back to the upscale Gangnam district in Seoul, the place cosmetic surgery clinics line the streets.

“I can’t say I’m free from being aware about individuals taking note of me due to the character of my job,” Ms. Im stated throughout an interview at a hair salon in Gangnam. “Take a look at me. I’ve my hair achieved, I’m sporting make-up, I’ve my nails achieved and I’m sporting fairly garments.”

She smiled, then added, “I can’t be liberated.”

Su-Hyun Lee contributed reporting.


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