Saturday, December 6, 2014

Ugly People Stand Up Part 1

Shawn Noaman wrote this excellent article on his brand new blog, FRESHPRINTS.

We just HAD to repost it. The original article and photos come from his blog.

It’s a beautiful fall day and I’m teaching P.E. class for one of the first times. My coworker is running “Shark Attack”, a game in which students (fishes) run from one end of the gym to the other without getting touched by one of two “sharks”. The kids are hyped up by our energetic explanation and are waiting impatiently on the baseline to begin (except for the chunkier ones who would rather be playing League of Legends and are gasping for oxygen after the warmup). Due to the large amount of students playing, for safety reasons we run the first couple rounds in two waves, and use a question in English to divide the students. We could say “boys sit down, girls stand up!” or “if you are wearing glasses, stand up” etc. In this particular circumstance, my coworker decides to use a different question. He bellows at the top of his lungs over the ruckus of the students: 

“If you are handsome or beautiful, sit down!” 

…. Ahem… 

“If you are handsome or beautiful, sit down!!!”

Not one student sat down, even the class clowns. We decided to use a different question. 

US influence in South Korea is peppered throughout every facet of the country. Once known as the “Hermit Kingdom”, the US opened the country up to the West after the Korean War causing a great improvement in their economy and military, all while introducing them to Capitalism and Taco Bell. Now that South Korea has become a powerhouse on the world’s stage, Americans are known as “Mi-Gooks”, translating to “people from a beautiful land”. The US were like a blueprint of success to follow to the “promised land”. Unfortunately, being a “copycat culture” has led to traditional Korean values slowly being stripped away, and an unhealthy Western ideal becoming its replacement. This spans from music, fashion, and cuisine, and most damagingly to beauty standards in the country. Although they have mixed perceptions of Americans in their country, embracing Western culture is still the highest virtue to young Koreans. From the awkward pairing of two people claiming to be a couple because they wear the same outfit, to the 12 year old who wears a hat with English profanity while barely being able to write his own name, everything is for show and everything is laced with the thought of judgement from their peers. An estimated 1 in 5 females in Seoul between the ages of 19 and 49 admit to having a plastic surgery procedure done. Having an impossible Korean ideal thrown in their face through media outlets is damaging enough, however having that ideal instead be Caucasian is leading to greater amounts of unnatural methods being implemented to attain an unnatural virtue.

It’s a regular occurrence for coworkers and myself to be called handsome or beautiful by our students (although with comparisons ranging from Cristiano Ronaldo to Mr. Bean, it becomes difficult for me to put much stock into them). I’ve had students say I have beautiful eyes while pushing open their own with thumb and index fingers, boys squeezing my biceps, and even girls in the middle of class come up to me and rub the bridge of my nose. The fascination with the appearance of foreigners has turned to obsession in the last decade for South Koreans, with 13.25 plastic surgery procedures done for every 1000 people in the country, 33% more procedures per capita than the United States. Some of the most popular procedures done (known as “the basics”) are the blepharoplasty to give the person more rounded eyes and the coveted “western double eyelids”, as well as rhinoplasty to lengthen and thin the nose. While there can be benefits in peripheral vision in the blepharoplasty procedure, most procedures carry potential for lifelong harm and risks. A dangerous surgical trend, called “double jaw surgery” cuts and realigns the upper and lower jaw. This procedure was initially invented to assist those born with facial deformities and is now being exploited by surgeons nearly 5,000 times a year as an enhancement for women looking to have a slimmer jawline, the “V-shaped chin”. Negative publicity has ensued in recent times due to a high profile Korean television presenter’s shocking alteration to her face with this procedure.

Stay tuned for part two of “Ugly People, Stand up” , where we’ll speak about why these procedures are being done at such an alarming rate, and their prevalence in popular culture. Might sound a little bleak, but there’s hope for the future!



Shawn Noaman

Shawn Noaman is a low-life turned English teacher from St. Catharine's, Ontario, Canada. He's a writer, comedian, poet, nomad, basketball enthusiast, and alternative health/wellness advocate (except when yangnyum chicken is involved). You can check out his blog at


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