Korean 'Pretty Boy' Trend is Too Much

Korea Times, Commentary, Park Moo-jong Posted: Nov 11, 2003

As Flora is the goddess of flowers in the Roman mythology, flowers represent beauty and symbolize the feminine beauty of women. But the flower is no longer a symbol reserved only for women-- at least in Korea.

An expression in vogue these days is "flower Adonis," which describes boys in their late teens and early twenties who are "beautiful" as flowers, with some of them more feminine that some women, enough to make them jealous.

The term may have originated with World Cup football star Ahn Jung-hwan now in his late twenties who is often compared to David Beckham of England. Such pretty boys include actors Kim Rae-won and Won Bin and singer Kang Ta, to name a few.

The flower Adonis men, most of whom are idols for teenagers, are contributing to the trend of men investing more and more time and effort to look better.

The sales of mens cosmetics, excluding shampoo, conditioner and hair styling products, are growing rapidly, making the industry an attractive one. The cosmetics industry, traditionally believed to target women, has a new target segment now: men. No longer do cosmetics represent a "women only" market. Many players are coming up with skincare products for men.

For instance, a "color lotion" with the brand name Man Holding a Flower, which hit the market last year, surprised even the products maker with $4 million in sales for the first six months. Its success was partly owed to the soccer star that modeled for its TV advertisement. This unique cultural phenomenon was even discussed internationally as the Los Angeles Times reported about it in a feature story from Seoul last month.

The U.S. paper attributed the phenomenon to an ultra-competitive society, especially when it comes to jobs, quoting people in the industry. It said market research indicates the best customers are middle-aged businessmen who are trying to compete for jobs and promotions.

Many men remember with some humor their young days of curiosity when they sneaked into the room of their mother or sister to try out their cosmetics. Now, they have grown up to be adults and face an era where men wear makeup openly.

As early retirement has increasingly become a major trend in this prolonged recession, more and more people are become concerned about looking younger to be more competitive to survive the rat race.

Dying ones hair is the first step. These days, plastic surgeons are busy removing moles, dark spots and wrinkles for their male clients. Botox is one popular treatment. It is well known that the nations most famous man had Botox injections to smooth out wrinkles in the forehead.

Men-only skincare shops are flourishing, with an increasing number of males using special cosmetics other than aftershave and lotions turning the market into a very lucrative one with 210 billion won ($175 million) in sales in the first 10 months of the year.

Professional matchmakers agree that many of their male clients could increase their chances after a makeover in hairstyle and general appearance. The ability to make money used to count most, but these days looks are worth more, they say.

Korean women who spend more time at hair salons than the rest of the world are also influencing their husbands or boyfriends to pay more attention to taking care of their faces.

In short, there can be no problem with the desire of men as well as women to look better. But there is something wrong about men having to try to look more pretty to survive in todays economically and socially competitive world.

The more gender lines blur, the more people will scramble to find their identity.

In particular, men are understandably shaken by a world where being a man has no longer any clear definition with the role of women rapidly expanding and volatility in society creating stress.

As proved by the girlish pretty boys monopoly of major entertainment and programs on TV, traditional men who rely on their strong natural appeal risk being endangered in these superficial times.

An Internet survey showed that it would not be that strange for middle-aged men in their 40s and 50s to wear colorful makeup after five to 10 years.

Even 17 percent of the male respondents said they are willing to use lipstick for men if such products become available. One day, men may start going to the bathroom in pairs to touch up their foundation.

Its funny to imagine a man running low on makeup in the near future. Will he suspect his sister or best friend?

Maintaining a good image is a fine thing and the effort must be rewarded. Yet, the truth is: Too much is as bad as too little.

NCM Coverage: Korea Times

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