South Koreans Use the Alphabet to Describe Ideal Body Types


It seems that obsessions with the perfect body type knows no borders. Case in point: while Americans talk about hourglass figures, or about thigh gaps, while South Koreans talk about S-shaped (curvy) bodies.

Slate’s Katy Waldman has a breakdown of this system:

South Korea has been swept up in “alphabetization,” or the grouping of (mostly female) bodies into shapes based on letters from the Roman alphabet. There is the S-line—”ample breasts and buttocks when viewed from the side“—and the X-line—”long legs and arms connected by a narrow waist.” The face of a woman with slim cheeks and a pointed chin follows the V-line. Cleavage is described using a W-, Y-, or V-line.

These descriptors are pervasive in South Korean society. Celebrities discuss them openly and regularly, advertising caters to people who want to conform to a certain letter, and even men and children can’t escape. Having a six pack means you have a good M-line, and the commercial above is about getting children to eat fermented bean pasted so they possess S and V-lines (no joke, though, fermented bean paste sounds delicious).

Is this another piece of evidence that Koreans are disproportionately obsessed with their appearance? Or does shine a light on how everybody is afflicted with attaining the perfect body? The latter question reflects a persuasive point that Waldman makes. South Korea is in the news a lot for its plastic surgery industry, among other aspects of their society that seem odd to us. It’s when we are looking at ourselves that an Internet hoax involving bikini bridges might not be as bonkers as if an outsider is examining this story.

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