June 25, 2016 08:11
After 10 years teaching in middle school there is one thing that baffles Lee Soo-jung -- how many of the girls are wearing makeup. "Just 10 years ago only a couple of girls in a class wore makeup, but now more than half of them do," she says.
The school tried to ban it, but to no avail. "Many girls put on makeup after coming to school, and we aren't sure where to draw the line," Lee says. "We can't simply tell students not to do something without explaining why, plus many girls are very sensitive about how they look."
One manufacturer of school uniforms polled some 158 teenage girls in May and found that the vast majority had tried makeup at school. They got their tips from websites like YouTube, which has around 149,000 videos with makeup instructions for teens.
The cosmetics industry estimates that the teenage market for makeup is worth around W300 billion (US$1=W1,176).
Teachers and parents tell young girls that they look much prettier without makeup but their pleas fall on deaf ears. Among teenagers even more than among adults, looks equal status.
"At school, the most important thing is how you look," says Kim Hyun-ji (15). "Not many girls get bullied for bad grades, but if you're overweight or have bad skin you have no friends."
Teens often rate each other's looks on social media.
Many young girls are already obsessed with staying in shape. Jung Da-hye (31), a fitness trainer in Seoul, said, "When vacation starts, we see a surge in schoolkids coming to exercise. They're not coming to prepare for a physical exam but are simply afraid of getting fat and being ostracized by their peers."
Lee, the middle school teacher, said, "Girls tend to imitate makeup of girl bands, which is viewed as standards of beauty. At one time, heavy eye makeup like Hyun-a [of 4minute] was the rage. At other times they wore white makeup with bright red lipstick like IU, and then matte makeup was in vogue imitating Su-zy [of miss A]."
Now doll-like teenage starlets dominate showbiz it seems hopeless to tell young girls how pretty they are the way they are.
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