The body, cosmetics and aesthetics in South Korea. The emergence of a field of research

Valérie Gelézeau, The body, cosmetics and aesthetics in South Korea. The emergence of a field of research, CCJ Occasional papers, October 2015, 2.


Based on a scholarly literature review in French, English, and Korean, the paper discusses the South Korean infatuation with luxury goods and cosmetic surgery. How did the transition to modernity transform the relationship of Korean women (and men) to their bodies and faces? What are the implications of these changes in the way society regards the use of cosmetics and luxury goods? The paper first takes stock of the obsession with aesthetic enhancement that characterizes Korean society today, before discussing the relationship of Korean women and their bodies within the cultural context of Korea, extremely competitive and organized by male dominance. It then looks at the catalysts of modernity and innovation in the relationship South Koreans maintain with the aesthetic/ cosmetic complex. Finally, it discusses the deeply entrenched idea of the harmony of body, heart and spirit, where physical ap earance becomes a matter of social etiquette, and moral duty.


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