Korean parents who are famous for investing heavily in their children's education are now starting to do the same for improving their child's outer appearance.
On December 16, Chosun Ilbo reported about the recent trend that is sending kids as young as in the fifth grade to skin care spas. One mother, age 37, who was interviewed said, "I purchased a 3-month skin care package for my fifth-grade daughter... Before she starts a new school year, I want her to get rid of acne skin and scars; she will have clear skin...They say nowadays, your appearance is a competitive edge, so if she is pretty, she will be more well-liked by her peers." This mom shared that she also plans to buy skin brightening procedure as well as aqua peeling treatment down the road.
As Korean schools are about to begin their winter break, which lasts for about a month, many pre-teens' parents are exploring options to improve their children's looks. They are flocking to not only shopping malls to buy better outfits, but the newer trend is to use the winter break to work on dental work, skin care, and even plastic surgery.
During winter time, these medical offices are crowded with elementary and middle school students who come with their mothers. Mrs. Jang, 40-years-old, said, "My son who is in fifth grade complained to me that his friends make fun of his protruding mouth, so we got him braces."
Some of the plastic surgery offices are extending 40% off student discounts to middle school students. One staff member at a plastic surgery hospital said, "We do not encourage young students to get any work done since they're still growing, but there are many moms who bring their elementary school age kids and begs us to do an eye surgery on them; we have to convince them and say no." Winter special weight loss classes and courses to grow height are also very popular during this time of the year.
Younger and younger girls are starting to wear makeup. So some parents are helping their kids choose better quality skincare and makeup products themselves. Mrs. Park who is a mom to a first-grade girl, said, "I decided to buy sunblock and lip products as a new school year present. The kids in her classroom just wear whatever other kids use, so it's better for me to buy good-quality products so she doesn't get skin trouble."
Experts are attributing these trends to Korean teens' high interest in celebrities. Good-looking and well-dressed celebrities are highly admired, and the kids aspire to be like them. One education organization conducted a survey in May of this year with over 3,000 elementary school students, and 38% of them said that they wanted to become a celebrity when they grow up. In 1970s and 1980s, the number 1 answer among kids was President of Korea. In 1990s, it was a physician.
Other experts argue that it is actually the parents' desire for their children's success that is making these trends worse. Professor Im Woong stated, "Investing in children's beauty is another way to make your kids superior, other than education. It is not a good idea to implant an idea of 'no matter what, the only thing that matters is winning in a competition' to children who do not yet have a set of values for themselves," expressing his concerns for Koreans obsession over good looks.