The next big thing in Korean beauty: muscles

Fri Oct 23, 2015 6:05pm EDT
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By Hooyeon Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) - Looks no longer center only on the face in beauty-obsessed South Korea, where more women are hitting the gym to improve muscle tone and physical health.

As the ideal of beauty evolves in a country that is a trendsetter in cosmetics and the pursuit of plastic surgery, women's fitness has become a growth business, say purveyors of health products, from diet supplements to dumb-bells.

"Women used to starve in order to lose weight. Now they exercise," said celebrity trainer Ray Yang, who leads a workout session during the Body Show, a weekly television event targeted at women that is now in its second season.

South Korea is a beauty powerhouse, with a $12-billion cosmetics industry and home-grown brands from the likes of Amorepacific Corp and LG Household & Healthcare riding a wave, or "hallyu", of cultural exports, from television dramas to pop music.

In July, Olive Young, a health and beauty chain owned by CJ O Shopping, began selling health products targeted at women, including dumb-bells and a mini gym ball.

Lotte Shopping's rival chain LOHB's said annual sales of items such as gym balls, jump ropes and dumb-bells were up 9 percent this year by Oct. 15.

As in other Asian countries, the popular depiction of Korean women has tended toward the slim, fair-skinned and demure, reinforcing gender stereotypes in a male-dominated society.

Until recently, physical fitness was not much of a priority for Korean women, despite an emphasis on appearance that has fueled a $5-billion plastic surgery industry, which accounts for a quarter of the global market.   Continued...

Ray Yang (bottom), a celebrity trainer, leads participants taking part in a workout session during TV program "The Body Show" at a gym in Seoul, September 19, 2015.   REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji