Men using Make-Up in South Korea

South Korean men spent $495.5 million on skincare last year, accounting for nearly 21% of global sales, according to global market research firm Euromonitor International. South Korea is the male makeup capital of the world.

That is a mind-boggling number from a socially conservative country with mandatory two-year military conscription for men. It is a very male dominated country where women live in fear of not marrying before the age of 30 and becoming known as an ajumma (grandmother).

Young Korean men are making meticulous efforts to paint the perfect face in an effort to land the perfect job. Their goal is to make their skin look flawless and lighter and highlighting eyebrows until they're thicker, bolder.

The end goal is to look sophisticated and more Western. (Koreans sometimes have darker skin and the standard of beauty in Korea is to have very pale white skin.)

Estimates are that total sales of men's cosmetics in South Korea this year will be more than $885 million, despite there being only 19 million adult men in South Korea. That means the average Korean is now spending $46.58 on cosmetics... and you have to figure the older generation isn't doing it quite so much and its mostly younger men.

It really comes down to fierce competition for jobs, advancement and even romance. South Korean women now have a growing expectation that men will take the time and effort to pamper their skin.
And it is being encouraged by companies too. Korean Air holds once-a-year makeup classes for male flight attendants and other companies are also giving lessons.

In South Korea effeminate male beauty has become "a marker of social success", meaning if you are successful, you wear make-up. So people who want to be successful are choosing to wear make-up in an effort to further that goal.

And its being pushed in the popular media which says that flawless skin is a crucial part of any plan to get ahead at work and romance.

It wasn't always this way. The ideal South Korean man used to be rough and tough. A lot has changed since the 1990s, allowing in more Japanese products and exposing South Koreans to different ideas on male beauty, including popular Japanese manga comics featuring pretty, effeminate men.

James Turnbull, a writer and lecturer on Korean feminism, sexuality and popular culture, said the economic crisis that hit South Korea in 1997 and 1998 also played a role in shifting thinking. Struggling companies often fired their female employees first, angering women who had already seen their push for equal rights take a backseat to protest movements against Japanese colonizers and the autocratic governments that followed. As such South Korea never really had much of a feminist movement.

So instead now Korea is having a shift in the other direction: A Male Effeminate Movement.

It isn't just make-up either. Many South Korean young men are adopting metro-sexual lifestyles in an effort to fit in and get ahead socially.

In 2002, a hero of South Korea's World Cup soccer team, Ahn Jung-hwan, who became a leading member of the "flower men" — a group of exceptionally good-looking, smooth-skinned, fashionable sports stars and celebrities who found great success selling male cosmetics. Men everywhere began striving to look like them, with the encouragement of the women around them, and the new trend was started.

Ten years later, ads featuring handsome, heavily made-up male celebrities are now unavoidable / part of the Korean scenery and young men using makeup is now commonplace.

So will this happen in North America? Difficult to say. With the Emo movement and fops like Justin Bieber you have to wonder...

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