South Korean government sparks outrage by saying K-pop stars ‘look identical’
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South Korean government sparks outrage by saying K-pop stars ‘look identical’

New broadcasting guidelines produced by the South Korean government have prompted outrage for suggesting that television programs feature K-pop stars that look too similar.

The guidelines, which criticise the stars as “skinny” with “similar hairstyles and makeup, and with outfits that expose their bodies”, were issued earlier this month by the ministry of gender equality and family (Mogef).

The paragraphs that have caused offence advise restricting the number of K-pop singers who appear on a TV show, for fear that similar appearances may promote unrealistic and narrow standards of beauty.

“Are the singers on TV music shows twins? They seriously look identical. Most are idol group members,” the guidelines say, according to the Korea Times. “Most of them are skinny and have similar hairstyles and makeup with outfits exposing their bodies.”

A petition has been submitted to the Korean government calling for the ministry’s abolition on the grounds that it has tried to censor “how female pop stars look”, reported the Korea Joonang Daily. The petition says the ministry was going “down the path of [dictator] Chun Doo Hwan, starting with internet censorship and now appearance censorship”.

Comparisons with the dictator, who ruled South Korea from throughout the 1980s, were also drawn by opposition politicians, including Ha Tae-keung of the minor opposition Bareunmirae party, reported the Korea Times.

“The gender ministry says K-pop idols should not star together on television because they are all skinny and pretty with pale skin,” he wrote on Facebook. “What’s the difference between this and the crackdowns on the length of hair and skirts during the military dictatorship of Chun Doo-hwan?”

The government has reaffirmed that the guidelines are not mandatory but aim to address the negative impacts of unrealistic beauty standards. South Korea is famous for its cosmetic surgery industry, with as many as one third of young women in the country believed to have gone under the knife.

Last year, South Korean women began a social media movement reacting against the country’s culture of exacting beauty standards, which suggest women engage in cosmetic surgery and laborious multi-step skin care regimes.

The movement, called Escape the Corset, saw Korean women post makeup-free selfies and videos of themselves destroying their makeup, in a rebellion against beauty norms.

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