Plus-Size Women in Korea

plus-size model

Plus-size in many parts of the world has made a breakthrough over recent years in the clothing industry. As of Western countries, people are seeing more size-inclusivity in both advertising and clothing. However, when thinking about plus-size people or models, Korea might be the last country to think of to have any.

Korea’s Obesity Rates

Do note, Korea scores amongst the lowest in the world’s obesity rates.

Interestingly, Korea has the majority of its population on the thinner side.

Obesity rate chart

Image from OECD

For instance, 4% of Korean adults fall into the obesity section, and 30% into the overweight section.

This is a huge difference.

Comparing these scores to the US, where 37.7% of adults are obese and 32.5% are overweight.

Now, at an early age, Korean parents, as well as in school, teach the youth about health and healthy eating habits.


obesity education bar graph

Image from OECD

Although this is a great way of promoting healthy habits, it can also cause unhealthy thinking.  

To clarify, a saying amongst Koreans is women should weight no more than 110 lbs.

Women over 110lbs might be considered fat and unattractive.

This way of thinking can bring unhealthy eating habits, and bullying from others.

Hardships of Plus-Size

You can say Korea is not made for overweight people.

Koreans tend to be straightforward with one another and will often tell an overweight person to lose weight by recommending nutritionists, exercises, and traditional medicine.

They might even ignore the fact that a plus-size person feels comfortable in their body. There is pressure in the community to lose weight and follow unrealistic beauty standards.

In the same way, plus-size people can have a hard time finding a job. When applying for a job in Korea, most companies require a face picture. For this reason, employers can make an early judgment on the person; affecting their chances for an interview.

Korean resume

Image from Metropolitician

In most cases, plus-size Koreans in their communities are seen as unhealthy and lazy because of their size. They are outcasts rejected by their society.

On a brighter note, this is changing. With social media, as well as feminist and body positivity groups, platforms are changing for the better.

Korean Sizing

Korean size is different from western sizing.

How so?

In Korea, clothes sizes range small, medium, large, and then there is one-size or free-size.

Whereas in the U.S, stores carry sizes like small, medium, large, and up to triple large.

Korean apparel size chart

Image from TripZilla

One-size (or free-size) is a very common size to see in most non-commercial stores (or street stores) in Korea. For the most part, one-size articles of clothing are made out of stretchy material.

However, this stretchy material does not mean it will fit all sizes. In most cases, one-size is small and is a U.S women size 6.

Furthermore, plus-size in Korea starts at a U.S women size 14. Whereas in the U.S, plus-size starts at size 16. 

Saying this, finding plus-size clothes in Korea is not easy and can be somewhat impossible. Due to this reason, plus-size women shop online on international websites.

Korean Plus-Size Fashion

Since plus-size clothes are somewhat non-existent in stores, sellers tend to turn away the client before they walk in.

Korean plus-size women shop in American-brand stores like H&M, Forever21, Uniqlo, and Zara in hopes to find something their size.

However, if all fails, online shopping helps. Now, things are changing, and for the better.

JStyle Clothing

Recently, a new Korean clothing line has approached the market. This company brings fashionable clothes in a wide variety of sizes.

And yes, it is a Korean company.

Jstyle Fasion

Image from TheKoreaTimes

Jstyle promotes plus-size ladies in their campaigns, making it the first Korean brand to do so. They are setting the standards as to how companies should handle their retails.

Jstyle promotes body positivity by being inclusive and shining the light on body acceptance.

The clothing sizes range from U.S size 8 to 20 (or M to 4XL) in tops and bottoms.

Do note, they are the first company to have Korean plus-size models.

And although this company is mainly online, they do occasionally have pop-up shops around Korea.

Korean Plus-Size Celebrities and Models

Before Korean plus-size models and social media, many Korean viewers would only see overweight people as comedians and occasionally actors. On many occasions, these comedians would be ridicule on TV for their weight. This is shown with b-rolls emphasizing the amount of food the person is eating, as well as the snarky comments or facial expressions from other actors.

Tasty guys

Image from Naver Blog

Big-size people are also mock in Asian dramas. A typical scenario is a plus-size girl struggling because of her weight but becomes happier and lucky after being skinny.

The depiction of plus-size people on TV is not very friendly.

But this changes when talking about plus-models. Korean plus-size models are beautiful, joyful, and most importantly happy with themselves in pictures. This new way of seeing big-bone ladies will help, young girls feel more comfortable with their bodies.

Artist and models:


Image from Naver Blog

Lee Guk-Joo, age 33, is a comedian and actress. You can see Guk-Joo in Roommate, Running Man, and currently in I Live Alone. She is very playful and is one of the few female plus-size comedians seen on television.

Hong Yoon-Hwa

Image from Naver Blog

Hong Yoon-Hwa, age 32, is a comedian and actress. Yoon-Hwa has a bubbly and adorable personality. She takes parts in Wok of love, People Looking for a Laugh, Running Man, and The Miracle. When playing the main character in the Miracle, the struggle to begin plus-size is very present. All while learning how to get rid of a spell, she learns that loves herself for who she is. 

Ha Jae-Suk

Image from Naver Blog

Ha Jae-Suk is a plus-size actress in the K-drama industry. She is in dramas like Perfume, Birth of a Beauty, and My Absolute Boyfriend. Jae-Suk talks about her struggles in being a big size actress with getting frequent criticism.

Taylor Tak

Image from Next Shark

Taylor Tak is one of the pioneers of plus-size models in Korea. Taylor features on Cosmopolitan Korea and Queen Size Magazine. You can also see her modeling in Romwe and Fashion Nova. Taylor is an advocate for body positivity, especially in Korea.

Gayoung Jun

Image from Starnow

Gayoung Jun is redefining beauty by being a plus-size model in Korea. She is a former taekwondo professional, now modeling lingerie. She features in Korea’s Bling and Marie Claire magazines. And in 2018, Gayoung was in the New York Fashion Week. Admittedly knowing there are scarce opportunities for plus-size models in Korea, she plans to continue her career to make a change. 

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