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Opinion

How One South Korean Magazine Set Out To Change Asian Body Image

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Asian girls and women are usually expected to be very thin, and that’s not a standard most young women go out of their way to break. Recently in South Korea, a country famed for its beauty products and nearly unattainable standard of beauty, model Vivian Kim (also known as Kim Ji-Yang in Korea) began her own magazine celebrating plus-sized figures in men and women. With 66100, the respective numbers for women’s and men’s extra-large sizes in Korea, Kim hopes to encourage positive body images and help people accept who they are and how they look.

Kim, who’s 5’5” and 154 pounds, was the first Korean model in Los Angeles’ Full Figured Fashion Week and used her own funds to print the 1,000 debut copies 66100. She said it’s hard to find plus-sized models in Korea to pose for the magazine, but hopes 66100 will encourage more women to feel more confident with themselves and show Korean clothing companies that there is a market for plus-sized clothing.

“Beauty is not about whether a person is fat or not,” Kim’s motto says. “It’s about having the confidence to know you are beautiful the way you are.”

I’m a Chinese adoptee on the curvy side who wears a size large in American stores and an XL or XXL in Asian sizes. For me, 66100 is a much-needed breath of fresh air. I feel out of place when I see other Asian girls my age weighing thirty pounds less than me while eating just as much as I do. I know I don’t live a very food-conscious and active lifestyle, but if society expects me to be a skinny twig, and I’m not, then I must be a freak of Asian nature. Along with my tanned skin, short legs, and non-flat stomach, I fail the Asian beauty standard on all counts.

Further driving the pity party home, I’m also a big fan of Kpop. Even though I know their look is very image-conscious and the pop industry promotes plastic surgery and wearing more make-up than Barbie, I can’t help but compare myself to the beautiful female idols. Watching music videos on top of hearing the stereotype that all Asian girls are skinny, my body image has plummeted. There are times when 2ne1’s “Ugly” became my personal anthem and I refuse to listen to Girls Generation out of jealousy.

My wallowing never lasts long, I know everyone is beautiful in their own right, and I too could look like a Kpop star if I set aside college and instead invested in massive plastic surgery. But seeing a strong and confident woman like Kim publish 66100, it helps instill the same confidence in my own body image and remind me that I’m not some Asian freak of nature.

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Written on July 17, 2014 by
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