[KS] Skin whitening in East Asia

Werner Sasse werner_sasse at hotmail.com
Thu Sep 16 02:14:22 EDT 2021

White face associated with youth and beauty: Take a look at the masks of mask dance dramas….

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From: Jennifer Jung-Kim<mailto:jenniferjungkim at gmail.com>
Sent: Donnerstag, 16. September 2021 14:52
To: Korean Studies Discussion List<mailto:koreanstudies at koreanstudies.com>
Subject: Re: [KS] Skin whitening in East Asia

Although this article does not focus solely on skin-lightening, the authors argue that Koreans beauty standards are not focused on trying to emulate Western standards, but rather yangban ideals.

Gender, Globalization and Aesthetic Surgery in South Korea

Ruth Holliday and Joanna Elfving-Hwang Body & Society 2012 18: 58
DOI: 10.1177/1357034X12440828

The online version of this article can be found at:

I look forward to other responses by Listserv members.

Jennifer Jung-Kim (she/her)

On Wed, Sep 15, 2021 at 9:51 PM Namhee Lee <namheeleeucla at gmail.com<mailto:namheeleeucla at gmail.com>> wrote:
Dear Koreanstudies list members:

This is an inquiry from a colleague who works at Google regarding the "use of skin lightening in East Asia/or historical beauty norms around skin tone." If you have done research or know someone who has done research on these issues, please kindly respond to this email.

I am currently working on a skin lightening policy proposal to limit the advertising of such products on Google platforms. The impetus for this change is multifactored -- partly due to the presence of toxic ingredients such as mercury and hydroquinone; partly to discriminatory and misleading marketing that suggest the life outcomes of people with lighter skin are superior to those with darker skin; and partly due to historical systemic discrimination against darker skin tones whether due to racial or economic factors. The research that I have conducted illustrates that at least some of these factors is present in every region of the world, but I am also looking to get a more nuanced perspective of East Asian beauty practices regarding skin lightening. Might you know anyone in-region in the medical field (dermatology) or social studies who can speak to the use of skin lightening in the region and/or historical beauty norms around skin tone? I recognize this is a very niche topic, but any assistance would be greatly appreciated.
Many thanks in advance,

Namhee Lee
Professor of Modern Korean History
Asian Languages & Cultures
Director, Center for Korean Studies
she / her / hers

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