Yeom Yoon Hye, 22, and Bae Kyo Hyun, 23, are two prominent plus-size models in South Korea, and the first- and second-place winners of a recent modeling contest held by J Style, a plus-size online retailer. According to a story published by AllKPop, a fan site for K-pop news, the pair beat out 170 contestants, with winner Hye scoring a modeling contract with J Style and runner-up Hyun landing a social media position with the company.
KOREAN PLUS SIZE MODELS ARE BECOMING A THING AND LOOK HOW CUTE THEY ARE IM IN LOVE pic.twitter.com/y4Urmso2rk
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The women told AllKPop that they both endured years of bullying for their size — Hye was called “elephant legs” and Hyun often ate her lunch alone in a classroom to avoid being harassed by her classmates.
Their goal: to be the “prettiest fattest” women in South Korea. “When I think about it now, I tried to dress cute but was unconsciously avoiding items such as off-shoulder tops to cover my fat,” Hye said. “But lately, I realized that I’m way more beautiful than I thought while trying on various outfits.”
She added, “I want to give confidence [to] people who are stressed by their physical appearance.”
In South Korea, the average woman (ages 20 to 24) has a waist measurement of 28 inches, compared with standard Korean mannequins that boast 24-inch waists, according to a story published Thursday in the Korean Herald.
The publication also referenced a new report conducted by the Korea Women’s Environmental Network (KWEN), which found that 74.2 percent of companies offered clothing in only three sizes, with only 30 percent carrying size XL. (Yahoo Style could not reach a representative from KWEN for comment).
“It is common to see women who say they could not find items available in their sizes, especially feminine items like skirts,” Ko Kum-sook of the Korea Women and Environment Network told the Korean Herald. “Limited sizes not only spread a distorted standard for beauty, but also make women think that it is their fault to be too heavy.”
She added: “Many women are constantly on a diet, suffering from mental distress and eating disorders. More sizes mean women’s health rights [are] better protected.”
Another plus-size Korean model rising to fame is size 14 Vivian Geeyang Kim, 31, editor-in-chief of the online magazine im66100. Kim did not respond to Yahoo Style’s request for comment, but she told the Korean Herald that despite her body-positive mission, she feels ostracized in her own country. “In Korean society, there are categories for only ‘normal’ or ‘average’ people,” she said. “The rest don’t belong anywhere, and fat people are just mocked. They consider being fat as lazy, disgusting, and unhealthy.”
Kim added, “Being fat is not a problem just like being slim, having short or long hair isn’t a problem.”
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