I know I shouldn't be so surprised that there are many skin bleaching creams here in Korea but it doesn't make it any less horrifying and disheartening.
On Thursday, I went to the bank to deal with an incident I had earlier that week with the bank staff (you can read that on my journal if you want). My ISS program coordinator, Jamie took me to speak with the Bank manager. While we were waiting, I ventured to question the zealous fascination with pale skin in Korea. I found it ironic because Koreans seem to gawk at and resent foreigners while simultaneously wanting to attain at least European standards of beauty
I asked Jamie if pale skin was of cultural significance like in Japan. She sadly replied that it was an import from Europe and Globalization. She said that the Korean people have been through invasions, colonization, and war and are looking to embrace something that represents strength and power and success, and sadly that aesthetic is European.
We delved into a frank discussion on race and beauty standards in Korea. I told her that the seeds of White Supremacy are widespread into all the colored people of the world. I referenced the notion of 'good hair' and the field slave/house slave mentality and how skin bleaching creams were popular in the 50s and 60s in the Black community before the 'Black is Beautiful' movement; then it seems we digressed. She agreed that we people of color are being brainwashed by this insidious notion that White is Beautiful even though whites are only 12 percent of the human race.
However, here and around the world people of color try in vain to reach this status. I too am not immune. I am wearing a weave under the guise of low maintenance to cover my not 'good hair'. It seems sometimes we people of color are our own worst enemy.
What is most disheartening is that I look around and see Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn reverenced by millions of Korean girls wanting to attain this 'epitome' of beauty. Every time I go shopping, I am bombarded by ads with pale skinned Koreans telling me to get pearly white skin, or beckoned to spend money on a shirt with a random white girl emblazoned on my chest.
Jamie told me that the UOS buddy to one of the Finnish girls has an obsession over her buddy's skin and looks. Jamie said with her Nordic looks and blue eyes and incredibly pale skin, she is the epitome of beauty to Korean girls here. The buddy was lavishing praises on the girl's perfect looks and, as Jamie said, idolized her. Jamie pitied the girl, telling her to shake off these silly notions.
I told Jamie that people of color around the world need a movement: "White is alright, but colored is beautiful" She smiled sadly and agreed. We all need to be comfortable in our skin.