Academic in Storm Over Defense of Lookism

      August 12, 2005 21:50

      An academic from Yonsei University has provoked widespread condemnation by defending the importance of appearance and coming out in favor of plastic surgery and diets.

      On a Thursday night MBC debate program discussing Korea's diet and plastic surgery craze, Ma Kwang-soo said, "In the past, students who did well were ugly, but now good-looking kids are good students as well." He added, "Kids who don't make themselves look good are lazy."

      When feminist scholar Oh Han Sook-hee accused him of stigmatizing academically poor students or women he considered unattractive, Ma responded, "They're lazy." He also called for plastic surgery to be covered by national health insurance because its goal was "to pursue self-satisfaction and happiness."

      When the broadcast ended, the station's online message was flooded with hundreds of critical comments. "I am pained by a situation where sensitive young people are becoming sacrificial lambs of an obsession with looks rather than following their own dreams for the future," one said.

      Women's groups mostly feel Ma's comments merit no response. But feminist scholar Min Ga-young said, "It's nonsense. Whether it's homosexuals, the handicapped or women, Ma simply repeats rhetoric stigmatizing those whose physical characteristics make them socially weaker."

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