A slew of Korean plus-size models are challenging beauty ideals and making their mark on social media in a country quickly earning credit as a top fashion capital.
Yeom Yoon Hye, 22, and Bae Kyo Hyun, 23, are two prominent plus-size models in South Korea, and the first- and second-place winners of a recent modeling contest held by J Style, a plus-size online retailer.
According to a story published by AllKPop, a fan site for K-pop news, the pair beat out 170 contestants, with winner Hye scoring a modeling contract with J Style and runner-up Hyun landing a social media position with the company.
The women told AllKPop that they both endured years of bullying for their size — Hye was called “elephant legs” and Hyun often ate her lunch alone in a classroom to avoid being harassed by her classmates.
Their goal: to be the “prettiest fattest” women in South Korea.
“When I think about it now, I tried to dress cute but was unconsciously avoiding items such as off-shoulder tops to cover my fat,” Hye said.
“But lately, I realised that I’m way more beautiful than I thought while trying on various outfits.”
She added, “I want to give confidence [to] people who are stressed by their physical appearance.”
Another plus-size Korean model rising to fame is size 14 Vivian Geeyang Kim, 31, editor-in-chief of the online magazine im66100.
She told the Korean Herald that despite her body-positive mission, she feels ostracized in her own country. “In Korean society, there are categories for only ‘normal’ or ‘average’ people,” she said.
“The rest don’t belong anywhere, and fat people are just mocked. They consider being fat as lazy, disgusting, and unhealthy.”
Kim added, “Being fat is not a problem just like being slim, having short or long hair isn’t a problem.”