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Korean Culture In The 21st Century

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 5226 words Published: 15th May 2017

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Korean culture has the most powerful influence in the 21st century today. The uses of social media have effectively shown how music from all around the world, like K-pop, can be shared and provide a platform to steer their endeavors to go international. In the beginning stages of K-pop’s arrival, the use of social media to circulate its musical content was a very fan-lead movement. It has seen how integral the use of the Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube is to display a heightened reality full of cute, seductive, and skilful talents. Record companies set up official Youtube channels for their artists and companies to create a presence. Television also plays an important role in this overall attitude of being thin.

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K-pop which means Korean popular music, is a musical genre consisting of dance, electronic, hip-hop, rap and others elements which originating in South Korea. K-pop has grown into a popular subculture among teenagers and young adults around the world. Basically, those k-pop singers are showing the perfect figure in their music video. In today’s society of stick thin K-pop star and celebrity is emerging focus on obesity, so it is no wonder that more and more people have eating disorders. In fact, the celebrity focuses on being thin because the camera adds at least ten pounds. However, a plus size k-pop singer is uncommon. This sends a message to girls and young women that thin are beautiful and it may cause them not to satisfy with their current figure. In the result, it may lead them to having anorexia nervosa, and are they the potential patient?

Research Problem

In the most of the society nowadays, towards the exposure of the K-pop music culture, females are very particular on their body size especially being extremely thin is the desire that will never disappear. In order to fulfill the desire, it makes females have the tendency to reduce their meals irregularly and even more serious was highly restrictive eating. A report from Sutter Health network (2003) shows that more than 90% of people who affected by anorexia nervosa are adolescent and young women. This group of adolescent and young women are exposed to K-pop music very oftenly. Moreover, according to the report from U. S. NEWS (2010), it shows that approximately 1 out of 200 western women who are disordered eating are between 15- 24 years old. From the above reports, it indicates that, females who are suffering from anorexia nervosa are averagely at the aged between 15 to 24 years old adolescent and young women. The highly percentage of adolescent and young women have eating disorder, which affect them to pay more attention on their body weight to maintain a distortion of body image. As shown in National Associated of Anorexia Nervosa And Associated Disorders (2012), there are many people with anorexia nervosa see themselves as overweight even they are starved, they will control themselves to achieve the thinness they want. Since the population of eating disorders among female adolescents are increasing, a survey will be conducted to find out whether the K-pop music culture has influenced anorexia the female adolescents to suffer from anorexia nervosa.

Purpose of the Study

To examine whether females between 15 to 24 years old are influenced by the K-pop culture about their body outlook and figures.

To find out the frequency of female adolescent expose to Korean popular music.

To examine whether females adolescent who frequently exposed to Korean popular music, are they satisfied with their current body weight.

To find out whether females adolescents have taken their meals regularly after they exposed to Korean popular music.

Research Question

Does the K-pop culture influence the females between 15 to 24 years old’ perception about their body figures?

Significance of Study

The study of the impact of K-pop music culture towards the anorexia nervosa among the female adolescents can be a guide for them to test whether themselves are diagnosed in anorexia nervosa. A summary from Renfrew Centre Foundation for Eating Disorders (2002) shows that 20% of people suffering from anorexia nervosa will prematurely die. Another summary from the same resource shows that 70 million individuals are affected by eating disorders worldwide. From the summaries above summarized that people have less awareness about anorexia nervosa. In fact, they do not know that eating disorder is the main symptom that enough to prove an individual to be diagnosed in anorexia nervosa. Therefore, this study is to raise awareness of anorexia nervosa and also to help the female adolescents prevent from anorexia nervosa.


2.1 Mass Communication Theory

Advertisers often emphasize sexuality and the importance of physical attractiveness in an attempt to sell products, but researchers are concerned that this places undue pressure on women to focus on their appearance. In recent survey by Teen People magazine, 27% of the girls felt that the media pressures them to have a perfect body, and a poll conducted in 1996 by the international ad agency Saatchi and Saatchi found that advertisement made women fear being unattractive or old. Researchers suggest advertising media may adversely impact women’s body image, which can lead to unhealthy behavior as women and girls strive for the ultra-thin body idealized by the media.

The average women see 400 to 600 advertisements per day, and by the time she is 17 years old, she has received over 250,000 commercial messages through the media. Only 9& of commercials have a direct statement about beauty, but many more implicitly emphasize the importance of beauty-particularly those that target women and girls. One study of Saturday morning toy commercials found that 50% commercials aimed at girls spoke about physical attractiveness. Others studies found 50% of advertisement in teen girl magazines and 56% of television commercials aimed at female viewers used beauty as a product appeal. This constant exposure to female-oriented advertisements may influence girls to become self-conscious about their bodies and to obsess over their physical appearance as a measure of their worth.

We are affected by what we see on television programs. Studies have shown that women’s dissatisfaction with their bodies is related to what they see in the media. Girls and women are most affected by the sexual images of their favorite celebrities they see on television. A growing number of these women are also addicted to extreme dieting, exercise which can lead to psychological disorders, low self-esteem, and even death. Women are exposed to celebrities who are Photoshopped in the media and it affects the way they see themselves. They think they are not attractive and skinny compared to celebrities. However, this contradicts reality considering that Korea has the lowest obesity rate among OECD (organization for economic co-operation and development) countries and Koreans are a lot slimmer than people in other developed countries. Because of the importance of obtaining an ideal body shape in our society, many women go on a diet. However, the results are eating disorders or and an unhealthy lifestyle.

2.2 The thin ideal is becoming a trend in our society.

According to the latest survey by the Korean Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs, almost two in every woman suffer from undernourishment with intentional starvation being the main cause. In the 2007 report, 48.7% of teenagers were on a diet, with 65.3% of females restricting their eating. However, if this kind of extreme diet persists, people can have conditions such as hair loss and depression to bulimia, constipation and anorexia. Even celebrities are not immune to eating disorders. For example, in Korea, the late model Kim Yoo Ri, received lots of stress because of dieting. After going on an extreme diet, she developed anorexia and eventually died. Not just in Korea, but also around the globe, lots of women including celebrities suffer from illness from extreme diet and exercising such as Isabelle Caro from France. In conclusion, the media plays a large role in the way women view their bodies to the point of dieting.

Women frequently compare their bodies to those they see around them, and researchers have found that exposure to idealized body images lowers women’s satisfaction with their own attractiveness. One study found that people who were shown slides of thin models has lower self-evaluations than people who had seen average and oversized models, and girls reported in a Body Image Survey that “very thin” models made them feel insecure about themselves. In a sample of Stanford undergraduate and graduate students, 68% felt worse about their own appearance after looking through women’s magazines. Many health professionals are also concerned by the prevalence of distorted body image among women, which may be fostered by their constant self-comparison to extremely thin figures promoted in the media.75% of “normal” weigh women think they are overweight and 90% of women overestimate their body size.

Dissatisfaction with their bodies causes many women and girls to strive for the thin ideal. The number one wish for girls ages 11 to 17 is to be thinner, and girls as young as five have expressed fears of getting fat. 80% of 10 year old girls have dieted, and at any one time, 50% of American women are currently dieting. Some researchers suggest depicting thin models may lead girls into unhealthy weight-control habits, because the ideal they seek to emulate is unattainable for many and unhealthy for most. One study found that 47% of the girls were influenced by magazine pictures to want to lose weight, but only 29% were actually overweight. Research has also found that stringent dieting to achieve an ideal figure can play a key role in triggering eating disorders.

Other researchers believe depicting thin models appears not to have long-term negative effects on most adolescent women, but they do agree it affects girls who already have body-image problems. Girls who were already dissatisfied with their bodies showed more dieting, anxiety and bulimic symptoms after prolonged exposure to fashion and advertising images in a teen girl magazine. Advertisements emphasize thinness as a standard for female beauty, and the bodies idealized in the media are frequently atypical of normal, healthy women. In fact, today’s fashion models weigh 23% less than the average female, and a young woman between the ages of 18-34 has a 7% chance of being as slim as a catwalk model and a 1% chance of being as thin as a supermodel. However, 69% of girls in one study said that magazine models influence their idea of the perfect body shape, and the pervasive acceptance of this unrealistic body type creates an impractical standard for the majority of women.

Some researchers believe that advertisers purposely normalize unrealistically thin bodies, in order to create an unattainable desire that can drive product consumption. “The media markets desire. And by reproducing ideals that are absurdly out of line with what real bodies really do look like. The media perpetuates a market for frustration and disappointment. Its customers will never disappear.” writes Paul Hamburg, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Havard Medical School.

2.3 Eating disorders on the increase in Asia

Thirty miles south of the border with starving North Korea, young women in the South Korean capital are starving themselves, victims not of famine but of fashion. Dr. Si Hyung Lee has seen this dark side of affluence and modernity. He remembers best the patient who died of respiratory failure: “She was a pediatrician’s daughter,” said Lee, director of the Korea Institute of Social Psychiatry at Koryo General Hospital in Seoul. “Her father and mother were both doctors.” But her parents failed to realize that their teen-ager suffered from anorexia nervosa until it was too late to save her. Anorexia nervosa was a disease almost unheard of in Korea a decade ago. In fact, if Asia is a reliable indicator, eating disorder is going global. Anorexia is a psychiatric disorder once known as “Golden Girl syndrome” because it stuck primarily rich, white, well-educated young western women – was first documented in Japan in the 1960s. Eating disorders are now estimated to afflict one in 100 young Japanese women, almost the same incidence as in the United States, according to retired Tokyo University epidemiologist Hiroyuki Suematsu.

Over the past five years, the self-starvation syndrome has spread to women of all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds in Seoul, Hong Kong and Singapore, Asian psychiatrists says. Cases also have been reported – though at much lower rates – in Taipei, Beijing and Shanghai. Anorexia has even surfaced among the affluent elite in countries where hunger remains a problem, including the Philippines, India and Pakistan.

Doctors in Japan and South Korea say they also have noticed a marked increase in bulimia, in which patients gorge themselves, then vomit or use laxatives to try to keep from gaining weight, sometimes with lethal consequences. Experts debate whether these problems are caused by Western pathologies that have infected their cultures via the globalized fashion, music and entertainment media, or are a generic ailment of affluence, modernization and the conflicting demands now placed on young women. Either way, the effects are unmistakable.

According to Dr. Ken Ung of National University Hospital in Singapore, he claims that appearance and figure has become very important in the minds of young people. “Thin is in, fat is out. This is interesting, because Asians are usually thinner and smaller-framed than Caucasians, but their aim now is to become even thinner.” A weight-loss craze has swept the developed countries of Asia, sending women of all ages. In Hong Kong, 20 to 30 types of diet pills are in common use and in Singapore, where the anorexia death of a 21 year old, 70 pound student at the prestigious National University, dieting itself has become a fashion statement.

South Korea is perhaps the most interesting case study since, until the 1970s, full-figured women were seen as more sexually attractive and more likely to produce a healthy sons, said Dr Sing Lee, a psychiatrist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who has written extensively on eating disorders. “When I was a kid, plumper than average women were considered more desirable, they could be a first son’s wife in a good house.” He said. But standards of beauty have changed dramatically in the 1990s with democratization, as South Korea’s government decontrolled television and newspapers, allowing in a flood of foreign and foreign influenced programming, information and advertising.

“The ‘be slim’ trend starts earlier now, even in elementary school.” Said the institute’s Dr. Kim Cho. Dieting by growing teen agers often leads to inadequate calcium intake and weaker bones. Kim is worried about an increase in osteoporosis cases when this generation of girls reaches menopause. “The dieting will also result in weaker physiques and lessened resistance against disease,” she said. South Korea Korean psychiatrist Dr. Kim Joon Ki, who spent a year in Japan studying eating disorders, said the increase in eating pathologies over the past few years has been phenomenal. “Before I went to Japan in 1991, I had seen only one anorexia patient,” Kim said. “In Japan they told me, ‘Korea will be next, so you should study this now.” And sure enough, they were right.” Kim said he has seen more than 200 patients, about half of whom were anorexia and half bulimic, in the 2 years since he opened a private eating disorder clinic. “Lately I have so many calls that I can’t even give them all appointments,” he said. But Kim said his new book on eating on eating problems, “I want to eat, but I want to lose weight” is selling poorly. Reader’s attention is still focused on dieting, not on eating disorders,” he said.

Dieting is not only trendy, it’s necessity for many Asian women who want to fit into the most fashionable clothes, some which are only made in one small size which is equivalent of an American size 4, said Park Sung Hye, a fashion editor at Ceci, a popular montly style magazine for 18 to 25 year old women. “They make just one size so only skinny girls will wear it and it will look good,” Park said. “They think, ‘we don’t want fatty girls wearing our clothes because it will look bad and our image will go down.” As a result, “If you’re a little bit fatty girl, you cannot buy clothes,” she said. “All of society pushes women to be thin. America and Korea and Japan all emphasize dieting.” In the articles she writes on how to diet, she cautions readers against excess, warning, “A model’s body is abnormal, not normal.” Park said young Korean attitudes toward food differ from those of their elders, who remember hunger after World War Two and the old greeting, “Have you eaten?” and fat as a sign of prosperity. “Now skinny means you are wealthier, since everyone can eat three times a day,” Park said.

2.4 Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia literally means loss of appetite (Medline Plus, 2003), however, with anorexia nervosa, loss of appetite rarely accompanies the restricted eating, dangerously low body weight, distorted body image, and intense fear of being fat (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2000, Halmi, 2005). Individuals with the disorder are frequently hungry and preoccupied with food, but deny the sensation of hunger as a way of establishing control over their bodies (Hobbs, & Johnson, 1996). The result is a complicated and potentially deadly illness that has the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder (The Renfrew Center Foundation [RCF], 2002). Someone with anorexia may look very thin. They may use extreme measures to lose weight by making themselves throw up, taking pills to urinate or taking diet pills. In fact, they will not eating or eating very little and they will weigh the food and counting calories.

Anorexia nervosa constitutes a major health care problem (Becker, Grinspoon, Kilbanski & Herzog, 1999), It has been described as one of the most common chronic illnesses among young females today (Touyz & Beumont, 2001) and Anorexia nervosa is a serious eating disorder predominantly affecting adolescent girls (Hoek & van Hoeken, 2003). Approximately 95% of those affected by anorexia are female, most often teenage girls. In the U.S. and other countries with high economic status, it is estimated that about one out of every 100 young women has the disorder. Research suggests that the prevalence of anorexia nervosa (AN) has been increasing, especially since the 1960s (George, 1997). For women, the lifetime incidence of the eating disorder is 0.9%, and for men is 0.3% (Hudson, Hiripi, Pope, & Kessler, 2007). The incidence among young women aged 15-19 has been recorded as high as 135.7 per 100,000 per year, and the rate of incidence among adolescent girls living in Western societies appears to have been rising steadily throughout the latter half of the previous century (Lucas, Crowson, O’Fallon, & Melton, 1999). Furthermore, research undertaken at the turn of this century suggests that the disorder is sub-clinical in up to 10% of young women aged 16-25 (Walsh, Wheat, & Freund, 2000).

Risk factors for anorexia include being more worried about, or paying more attention to their weight and shape. Generally, they will have a negative self-image, having certain social or cultural ideas about health and beauty. They will also have an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even when she is underweight. One of which is that people affected with this disorder are 15% below their healthy body weight and have a body mass index (BMI) less than 17.5 (Psychiatry: GPs should be vigilant for eating disorders, 2009). Probably, they have a body image that is distorted and refuse to admit the seriousness of weight loss.

There are several physical effects of anorexia other than the obvious loss of weight can be seen. Anorexia can cause slow thinking and poor memory. Patient also will feel depression and fatigue. It will also cause dry, yellowish skin and brittle nails. Fine, downy hair grows on the face, back, arms, and legs. Despite this new hair growth, loss of hair on the head is not uncommon. Besides that, it will also cause tooth decay and gum damage. It will also cause the patient dizziness, fainting, and headaches. People with anorexia might also develop trouble maintaining a consistent body temperature and they will get cold easily.

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In addition, according to Dan W. Reiff, he said that “In our clinical practice we surveyed over 1000 people with clinically diagnosed eating disorders. We found that people with anorexia nervosa report 90 to 100 percent of their waking time is spent thinking about food, weight, and hunger; an additional amount of time is spent dreaming of food or having sleep disturbed by hunger. People with bulimia nervosa report spending about 70 to 90 percent of their total conscious time thinking about food and weight-related issues. In addition, people with disordered eating may spend about 20 to 65 percent of their waking hours thinking about food. By comparison, women with normal eating habits will probably spend about 10 to 15 percent of waking time thinking about food, weight, and hunger.”


3.1 Subjects

The survey was conducted by using the cluster random sampling. The survey form was distributed to 100 students. 35 students from Tunku Abdul Rahman College, Penang Branch Campus, 35 students from Disted-Stamford College and 30 students of Penang Chinese Girls High School. The survey form only distribute to female students who are aged between 15-24 years old.

3.2 Research Design

This research is aims to examine whether female adolescents are influenced by the Korean popular music culture among the female adolescent between 15 to 24 years old. The data of the survey was collected by using quantitative research method. the survey questions was designed accordingly to meet the research objectives. The survey consists of 14 questions. First part of the survey was designed to know about the demographics of the participants to find out whether the participants themselves are underweight or overweight. The second part of the questions was designed to find out the frequency of the female adolescent exposed to Korean popular music. While the following part of the questions was designed to examine the satisfaction of the body weight among the female adolescent who exposed to Korean popular music. Last part of the survey questions was designed to find out whether the female adolescents have taken their meals regularly after they exposed to Korean popular music.

A PILOT test was conducted was conducted on a sample size of 15 students from Tunku Abdul Rahman College, Penang Branch Campus. The Pilot test was carried out to test the accuracy requirement to meet the research objective.

3.3 Research Materials

In order to find out the body weight of the female adolescent between 15 to 24 years old are underweight, overweight or at the average desirable weight. Body Mass Index(BMI) measurement formula has been using as a calculator. According to the World Health Organization(2008), BMI is the standard reference for the obesity test. Throughout the survey, pen, pencil and papers have been using to fill up the survey form.

3.4 Research Procedure

The survey questionnaires were only distributed to the female students who were taking meal in the canteen of the institutions of Penang Tunku Abdul Rahman College, Penang Disted- Stamford College and Penang Chinese Girls High School. 100 set of survey questionnaires were distributed to three institution.


4.1 Hypotheses

Throughout the survey, the objective of the survey is to examine whether females between 15 to 24 years old are influenced by the K-pop culture about their body outlook and figures. The data were collected from three institutions which is Penang Chinese Girls High School, Penang Tunku Abdul Rahman College, and Penang Disted-Stamford College. The exact sample size is 100 people. 35 students from Tunku Abdul Rahman College, 35 students from Disted-Stamford College and 30 students from Penang Chinese Girls High School. The sample size was divided into 2 categories. 15 to 18 years old students are from secondary school which falls under 1 category while 19 to 24 years old falls under another category which is the students from tertiary education level. The following chart shows the results of the demographics of the participants.

4.2 Standard Reference of Body Weight

Chart 4.2 Body weight of the participants through Body Mass Index (BMI)

Based on the chart 4.2, from the first category which the participants are aged from 15 to 18 years old, there are 20% of the students were underweight, 1% of student was at the average weight and 9% of the students were overweight. From the another category, the participants were from 19 to 24 years old. There are 30% of the students were underweight, 35% of students were at average weight and 5% of the students were overweight.

4.3 Frequency of the Exposure to the Korean popular(K-pop) music

Chart 4.3 Frequency of the Exposure to the K-pop music

Based on the chart 4.3 above, it shows the frequency of the female adolescents exposed to the K-pop music. 12% of the underweight students exposed to K-pop music less than 2 times per week, 24% of students exposed to K-pop music more than 4 times per week, 6% of the students exposed themselves to the K-pop music everyday and 8% of the students never exposed themselves to the K-pop music.

The students who are at average body weight, there are 13% of them exposed to K-pop music less than 2 times per week, 15% of them more than 4 times per week, 5% of them watch it every day and 3% of them never expose to K-pop music.

4.4 Satisfaction of body weight among the female students who exposed to Korean Popular(K-pop) music

Chart 4.4 Satisfaction of body weight among the female students who exposed to Korean Popular(K-pop) music

There are 38% of underweight students are not satisfied with their current body weight while 12% of them satisfied with it. Students who are at the average weight, 28% of them dissatisfied with their body weight while 8% of them satisfied with their current body weight. Students who are overweight, there are 11% are not satisfied with their body weight while only 3% of them are satisfied with their body weight. Overall of the percentage, there are 77% of the students are not satisfied with their current body weight.

4.5 Do the Students Reduce the Number of Meals

Chart 4.5 The actions of the students take on their meals to become their favourite Korean Celebrities

According to the chart above, students who are underweight, there is only 2% of them have reduce their meals while the rest 48% are not. 35% of the students who are at average weight have not reduce their meals while only 1% has reduce her meal. While the overweight students, only 3% of them have reduce their meals and 11% of them are not.

4.6 Outcome of the Satisfaction of the Weight among the Students

Chart 4.6 The Impact of the Korean Popular(K-pop) music towards the anorexia nervosa

From all the charts shown above, there is 77% of the students are not satisfied with their current body weight after they exposed to the Korean Popular music. While 23% of the students are satisfied with their body weight. The majority of students were influenced by the Korean Popular music about their body figures.


5.1 Summary of Results

After the survey was conducted, based on the result of the satisfaction of the body weight among the participants, majority of the participants, after they exposed to the Korean popular music, they do not satisfied with their body figures. The conclusion is there is an impact in Korean popular music towards the female adolescents. But based on the findings on the actions that whether they will reduce their meals in order to become to Korean celebrities they favor. After all, the outcome is although there is an impact in Korean popular music towards the female adolescents but the majority do not reduce their meals to become the Korean celebrities that they admire.

From the survey, the results also shown that majority of the underweight female adolescents are not satisfied with their current body weight even their body weight are under weight according to the worldwide standard reference, Body Mass Index(BMI). The answers found in the survey questionnaire was they wish to be slimmer. They also stated that they want to be thin is because they want to be more beautiful. It shows that Korean popular music has a great impact to influence the teenagers nowadays to have the perception that to be extremely thin is the trend todays.

Korean popular music is not the main factor that cause people choose to suffer from anorexia nervosa. There is other factors behind it. In the future, a result is hopefully to be conduct with other factor like advertisements.

During the survey was conducted, a new idea was brought from the surrounding of the locations and the people. As this survey was only targeted at female but there was a lot of male students pass through. They are even more interested to know more about the Korean popular(K-pop) music compared to some of the females. It indicates that K-pop is not only influence females nowadays but also males. Males have started to admire the Korean celebrities and tend to imitate them. In the future of the research, the research of the target group might target at male students which is quite new to the society today.

Due to the advancement of the technology today, children before entering to nursery or kindergarten, they have already exposed to the media almost every hours. Especially parents whom are also the favourite adopter of new technology such as smartphone, tablet and etc, their children will expose to the media more. Expose themselves to the media has already become one of the routine in daily life. In a nutshell, a research should be conduct in future should also target at the children.


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