No, we’re not suggesting that you are fat and ugly, or fat, or ugly. But living in Korea can make you feel that way sometimes. For us, being 6’4 and 5’7, we definitely feel oversized here. We try on the XL clothing here, which is roughly a North American medium, and then we feel like fat and ugly monsters because we can’t even fit into those XL. And when we see how everyone here seems to be slim, how obesity just doesn’t seem to exist here, and then we feel like fatter and uglier monsters. And then we hear about some Korean people, who we already think are ridiculously slim and healthy, and how they supposedly put on some fat, and still think to ourselves that they’re still really slim and healthy, and then we feel like super fat and super ugly monsters. Then we have a conversation with a Korean person in which they let slip a question about our fatness, and then…you get the point.

So the question we got this week is:

Is having a little bit of fat a big deal in Korea? I have Korean friends that always say they need to diet….but they look really healthy to me. It also becomes a hot topic when a little “FAT” shows up on idols? (UEE, Tiffany, Taeyun, etc). WTF?!

Basically, our position in our video is that, in Korea, a little fat means something completely than a little fat to Canadians/Americans. This is because we have totally different body types, and we’re not used to noticing small amounts of fat that a Korean person would notice. The best equivalent we can think of is this: a rich person hears one not-rich person argue with another not-rich person about five dollars. To the rich man, he’s probably like, “WTF is five dollars?” If you’re dealing with millions, a fiver means nothing to you. Canadian/American bodies seem to have a much larger range of shapes and sizes than Korean bodies (seriously, go to Korea and you’ll ask yourself WTF does “free size” on a clothing tag mean), and so a little bit of fat by our standards counts for a lot more by Korean standards.

And of course, Korean media (as well as every other media outlet in the world) pushes the importance of being slim and fit. The idea of having an “s-line” (curvy figure) or “x-line” (hourglass figure) are sought after as ideal body types, and celebrities are often praised for these various alphabet lines. Take this ad, for example:


Now, what’s interesting about this ad, is that to us, that girl’s body is not curvy at all, nor does it similar to the shape of an S. Similarly, Yoon Eun Hye (the boy/girl from Coffee Prince) supposedly has an ideal X Line body. Yes, the same girl who acted and looked like a boy and has the body of a boy and masquerades as a boy and is easily thought of by everyone as a boy. That one. She supposedly has a womanly curvy body. o_O

We’re not her to argue if these two bodies are curvy or not. The point is that – to us – the curviness that the Korean media seems to depict is indistinguishable; any differences in the curvature of those bodies are lost to us. Having grown up in North America and having seen so many different kinds of body types, and thinking of Tyra Banks and Christina Hendricks as examples of curviness, these two Korean examples of bodies just seem more like “l” lines than any other letter of the alphabet. BUT that’s because we’re not sensitive to the nuances. So what are we getting at here? We’re trying to say that a totally healthy foreigner visiting Korea is suddenly an XL and can be seen as overweight to a Korean person, only because that Korean person has different experiences of body weight and “fatness” after having grown up with a smaller range of body types.

Interestingly, we have NEVER ever seen an obese Korean person, though we have seen some chubby kids. In fact, we remember in our first few months in Korea being struck by this fact, and we went out LOOKING for obese people, to no avail. We often wonder if an emphasis on exercise has a deciding factor in this, as there are free exercise parks scattered around every city and they are ALWAYS being used by people of all ages. But then again, there are tons of Korean teenagers that spend all their time sitting at school and then sitting in front of the computer playing computer games. So what the heck? Is it genetic? Who knows.

Super Junior is Short

Simon is not 8 feet tall, FYI. Super Junior is just short.

Lastly, the major misconception we disagree with is how kpop idols are often looked up to and idolized for having perfect bodies…that they don’t actually have. We don’t like the fact that, back when we were teachers, our students would feel low about themselves and their looks because they aren’t as tall or aren’t as skinny or aren’t as small-faced as _____ kpop idol. From our perspective, as two people who have met many idols (and we’ve met many), we can honestly say that their reported heights via online sources are totally false. When this picture of us beside Super Junior was released, many SJ fans were SHOCKED to see how short SJ actually were. We even had people defending SJ, saying that it was a weird camera angle that somehow made JUST SJ look short (that doesn’t make any sense BTW) or that Simon and Martina are both over 6’9 and freakishly huge. No. Actually, SJ are just average Korean height, if not shorter, and they are actually one of the few groups that openly admit to wearing shoe lifts to make themselves look taller, so in fact, that picture should have another 2-3 inches taken off each member.

The point here, though, isn’t that Super Junior or Big Bang or any other Kpop group is shorter and smaller than they report to be. The point is that the combination of a) heightened sensitivities to small variations in body size and b) falsified reports of the measurements of Kpop idols with supposedly ideal body types leads to some severe damage occurring to the self-esteem of kids all over Korea. And, yes, we know that North American media is also guilty of airbrushing, trimming off body fat, and other lovely things to make a celebrity’s body look “just right,” and so the same kind of damage is being done to North American teenagers as well, but we feel like at least there’s more wiggle room in North America, no? For us, it seems like fitting within the archetype of either a supermodel or Christina Hendricks is a lot more forgiving, than, say, trying to fit into the S line or X line body, both of which are nearly identical to us.

Now, we’re only observing Korea from an outside perspective, so there are surely lots of points we’re missing out on, but we’re hoping that a discussion can be opened up at least. Let us know what you think!

  1. I wonder if I would be fat and ugly I am 62.5(159CM) inches tall, my legs are 31.5(80CM) inches long, I wear 34C bra my measurements are: 37 inches(94CM) breast, 24 inches(61CM)waist, 34 inches(86CM) hips, 36 inches(92CM) butt, legs: 19.5 inches(50CM)Thighs, 12.5 inches(32CM) Calves, 7 inches(18CM) Ankles, with a face of Shin Min Ah according to my Asian friends.

    • I forgot to add my under bust is 29(73.5(CM)on my bra size app(on bra size charts 34C) I would be a 34D US or a 75F in Korea I realized that Koreans like to mark the bra size two size bigger but general sizes in the US compare to Asia it is two size smaller.

  2. Fat ass young women in skin tight shirts strutting around like they are sexy with their muffin tops spilling over their jeans. Their is no shame in America, the country that gives you a trophy for showing up. We are doomed.

  3. Simon and Martina,
    I am 5’2 (157 cm).and still growing at 94- 98 lbs.(42-44 kg). Would I be considered as fat? I have small everything and I know it’s okay to have that in Korea. I lost weight and I know how you feel. Try to dance and do exercise and don’t eat late because if you eat to late your food can turn into fat. Go balanced, have a source of protein, carbs ect. I know you quit carbs but if you want protein you have to have it with carbs or you don’t digest it properly. Have water and green tea for a beverage. Start your day with a decent amount of food and go smaller as the day goes on, like I said don’t have a big meal right before bed or your going to have a lot of belly fat. This helped me so I hope it helps you and others, good luck.
    P.S Please comment back if this helped you or if I am fat.

  4. where i teach at the kids always thought i was fat because because my chest and back are so big and i have thick thighs so from an angle i look really thick (working out every day does that and working out is big in south korea) so one day I said fuck it i did something that probably would’ve gotten me fired and probably no school would’ve accepted me had i gotten fired but one day after a boy i will just refer to as Chul kept calling me piggy i just took my shirt off and said THIS? THIS IS FAT? ya thats right soak it all in even did a hulk hogan pose after i hate flaunting my body thats why i wear many layers but koreans can be stubbornly ignorant but now everything is fine and now there are 3 students including “chul” who work out with me everyday

    my point in all this is that even being too ripped can be considered fat somehow because at the gym i got to i really have yet to see a massive dude in there like i would in the states you know what i am talking about the hulking meat heads who made me feel more like the thing rather than the hulk now when i go to the gym im the hulk and everyone are just puny humans HA seriously though im glad im only 6’0 thats seemingly the perfect height to them over there but in the end if your drastically different over there you get stared out i am not even a meat head but thats the type of looks i get from everyone in there

    you hit on a lot of things though i said or was thinking

    i also agree with the body misconception i remember reading something that said “netziens shocked at yuris rock solid abs” and i remember ya she has a really nice stomach but there are no abs there to be seen same with krystal jung article titled similar and she too has normal abs nice stomach but there are no signs that either of these women work on their abs in the gym i am no knocking korean women I love korean women i am addicted to them since being here i havent thought of any or dated any women but korean women but i dont think they understand what rock hard abs are i also made a remark to my students about that with comparison pictures with myself and kim soo hyun, kim in secretly greatly has like this 3 1/2 pack thing going on and i have a legit 6 pack

    i wont lie i worked out and still do because of being self conscious in korea i refused to work there until i was boxer fit then i finally moved

    i had the privilege of meeting jang keun suk and lee seung gi both billed at 6’0 me being 6’0 exactly was looking down on them not sure how you guys were able to meet idols i have no special connections of any form i was just lucky enough to be in areas they were in, very approachable young men

    there difference between being fat in america and being fat in korea is that as a fat american man or woman if you own that shit and have confidence people dont care but in korea your a walking freak show you just dont see fat people here at all PERIOD

    oh ya and shindong use to be obese and still is by koreas standards how did that guy become an idol?

    sorry for long post i dont really get a chance or speak with americans over here i am at the point now where i only speak english unless im in class even when i talk to myself now its in korean lol but i love this place the people the everything I know they can be ignorant and near sighted but there are a lot of good people here there are a lot of things corrupt in the society there are a lot of very disturbing things but it exists everywhere and i really have no plans going back to the states i love my students and the people here its a great place to live once your known amongst the community and become acquainted and educated on everything its pretty easy to blend in plus my milky white skin makes it even easier to blend in when i wear glasses

  5. i am fat but that means korean people dont care if they are fat or not

  6. ok that means that korean people doesnt care about that person being fat or tall or small

  7. I know that even in American standards I am not small at all…but I am comfortable with myself the way I am. Although, I am hoping to study abroad in South Korea in a few years and it makes me extremely nervous that SK is not over friendly with the idea of being bigger and aren’t as accommodating. I really don’t want to have to change myself just to live a normal life over there. Ugh cubbygirlprobz

    • its a shame but you may have to, i refused to go to south korea until i was i rigorously worked out JUST FOR a teaching job just to avoid any hassle over there thats just me I am comfortable with who i am or was but when it gets in the way of work and personal life I had to make sacrifices worst part about it is that being too muscular is also considered fat somehow

  8. It’s interesting because until I went to college and was exposed to a large community of Koreans, I never considered myself extraordinarily pretty or skinny, just average Asian looks and weight. However, when most Koreans (who recently immigrated to the US) met me for the first time, they couldn’t stop talking about how pretty I looked – my slim s line (wtf I’m an A cup), my small face, my big eyes, etc. Turns out, I hit the ideal natural beauty jackpot. for Koreans However, once they found out I was Chinese, most of the guys suddenly found me unattractive. Do most foreigners experience some sort of subtle racism like that??

    • Even though their asian countries, they don’t get along very well. Some Koreans say Chinese don’t wash. They don’t really talk about Chinese but more sterotypical to Japanese. But they are usually rasict or just sterotypical to other races like blacks. Not all are like this, but some think they look the same. Look at TLDR Sterotypical in Korea by eat your Kimchi.

  9. I am pretty concerned…I used to not be fat even by US standards about 2-3 years ago. Now, I am at least 50 lbs. overweight. I am sensitive, but I can totally see how Koreans would make comments about weight and appearance as a means of concern, etc. which I think I actually agree with and can appreciate because I, too, am concerned! Anyhow—– do you think I will lose weight while living/teaching in Korea? I know that several years ago (when I was already skinny, but also young!) I went to Japan for a couple weeks and ate and ate and ate, as one does on vacation, and I actually LOST 10-15 lbs. in those 2 weeks! I am hoping the walking and the basic food quality is better in Korea than in the US as it is in Japan. Thanks! ^^

    • WHAT YOU’RE 50 LBS????? How tall are you?!?! and how old?!?!? 50 lbs is so small!! how is that at all overweight?! you’re more anorexic than overweight!!!

      • “I am at least 50 lbs. overweight.” Don’t skim read next time :P

        • Sorry, I kinda rounded it to 50lbs but that wasn’t really what my main point was about. 50lbs is not at all overweight! it’s underweight!!

        • Of course weighing just 50lbs is underweight. The author stated she was “50lbs overweight” not that she weighed only 50lbs. Hence your “main point” isn’t reinforced still. There was nothing to “round up”. That’s why I told you to not skim read, there’s nothing dramatically wrong about skim reading but just be more careful next time that’s all.

        • I am an idiot. I use the metric system so I don’t put periods for the abbreviations for the units of measurement. Don’t be mad, I’m just an idiot for not understanding it properly. I thought that the period was used for ending the sentence not for the abbreviation. Thanks for clearing it up two times for me to finally make me understand. Haha and I can understand you being o_o at me. I would be like that too!

        • I use the metric system as well so I understand your mistake. Basically all my google searches are convert “so and so” to kg/g/cm/m . Don’t worry i wasn’t mad. Common mistake, just wanted to clear it up. ^__^ P.S You are not an idiot. Nasties are never idiots!

  10. ALSO, am I the only one who thinks the member closest to Simon looks hilarious? It looks like he’s challenging martina’s dorthraki warrior to a fight.

  11. T O T So tiny…. *says the girl that is 5’3* lol I definitely want to know about Rain’s height, or Kai and Kris from EXO.

    ….. Or Eric from Shinhwha. Oh…. Eric. <3

  12. In South Korea Is it ok for a Korean person to date a foreigner?

  13. All you people talking about being short o_o I am only 5 foot 2 inches… Im considered a hobbit leprechaun here as I am Irish. I would fit into Korea perfectly if I wasnt so damn fat :/ being short is terrible for weight. If I was taller I would appear slimmer.. ugh life sucks. I am perfect hight but cant fit into clothes. I even bought a headband from korea on ebay and it just almost fits my head and my head is average.. wtf.. im 179lbs btw. jeezuz crhist I can never imaging being 110lbs and shit, thats fucking ridiculous, id be dead sooner.

  14. OK this is sooo late but i never saw or heard of this ;~; i want MARTINA to stand up next to them (since im a girl around her height..5ft5/5ft6) i just wanna know if ill be humungous to anyone ;o; i went to a korean clothing shop in new jersey, and the ladies were my height, and one was slightly shorter..but thats just one place :'( and park bom who was supposed to be 5ft6 was atleast an inch or two shorter than me.

    im so angry at how i missed this for THAT LONG. im sorry simon and martina T_T i love you guys for posting this.

  15. I know this is old but I just have to say this.
    I recently moved to Seoul in South Korea and I find that people are nor abnormally short or tall here, compared to myself. My height is 5‘4 or roughly 164 cm. I have seen a lot of Korean women that are my height, taller and shorter. Same for the men, some are quite tall and others seem to be roughly my height. So, yes, SJ‘s profiles are exaggerated but I don‘t think they are THAT short in comparison to both myself as well as other Koreans. But then again, I‘m not that tall either so… maybe it‘s just me ^^

  16. My mum doesn’t say “Oh that dress doesn’t look good on you” in a kind upper tone like Martina did in the video, she just goes “You’ve gotten fat, go on a diet.” I’m a UK size ten and I’m Chinese -.-

  17. Well, I think it really is a matter of perspective. I’ve never been to Korea but I have been to Japan and for me most people there weren’t too thin, they were just normal (I did see a few anorexic girls though). I’m 5’7”, 115 pounds (170cm, 52Kg. My weight would be “normal” if I weighed 5 more pounds, so I’m barely underweight) and didn’t feel fat or thin there, I fit right in (as far as “fatness” goes). I did feel tall in most of the places I visited, except for Tokyo. I saw many tall men and women in Tokyo (my boyfriend’s 6′ and he didn’t really feel very tall in Tokyo).
    On the other hand, when I look at you two I can’t help but think that you are indeed somewhat fat (I don’t mean to be offensive, I apologize if it feels that way). I’m Portuguese and short, chubby/fat people are not a rare sight here, but to me you still look a little on the heavy side. In fact, regardless of the fact that about 50% of the Portuguese population is overweight, an American M is equivalent to a Portuguese L. What’s considered medium size in America is large here.
    So, from my point of view it’s very easy to understand why Koreans think people like you are a little fat and why they think they’re a little fat even when they’re not. In a country where everyone is thin/normal, the slightest change in size is very obvious. In America, where a lot of people are obese, it’s easy for a chubby person to think of him/herself as “normal”.

  18. I can’t believe how short SuJu are!! When I was watching the videos on your page, Kyuhyun and Shindong looked about as tall as Martina. Kyuhyun is not the reported 5’10” that SM claims hahaha.

    Anyways, as a female who is 5’9″ (mayyybe 5’10”, but I like to undershoot myself) and is on the heavier side of average, this is really the biggest thing I’m worrying about. I’m going to be studying abroad in Korea for a semester, and I already knew my height would make me stand out, but I’m just so worried because I’m already insecure about my weight. This video made me a bit more prepared, but it’s just a shame that it’s so normal in their country to say that to people they don’t know. I’m going to be spending my winter exercising and dieting but this is almost making me regret my decision to go abroad.

  19. Hey friends! I’m lovin’ the new website! I write for Groove magazine and came across this video doing research for my next piece, a comparison of American and Korean food cultures. I’m wondering if you’re still able to hold out on the never-seen-an-obese-Korean-person-EVER thing, or if you’ve noticed an increase in fatness around here. I’m stewing on a theory right now about it, especially since the data shows a big jump in the last 5 years. What do you think? In all your runnins’ around, how many fat people have you been seeing lately?

  20. You guys should talk about the eating disorder average in Korea!!!!

    by the way… you are simply fantastic! <3

  21. hey just wondering with the differences of beauty being so different in north america and korea what celebrities if any from north america are big in korea?

  22. SJ’s member are tall for me, but I know the truth about being Asian…we can rarely compete with the Westerner…anyway, I always thought that Korean has weird way about defining beauty (SNSD girls has perfect body for example) but sadly, this is spreading into my country (Malaysia). Girls are trying to be as thin as possible (eve elementary school kid) to the point of being flat, and you’re not very pretty when you’re wearing skinny jeans and your thigh to your ankle are of the same size…like having stick for leg…

  23. Is super Junior really that short? O.O I thought that most of the members were my height or taller (5’9″). Would I stand out in Korea being that I am a 5’9″ female?

  24. American people and Asian people do really have a big height difference…. like 6 footer asian are just like 5’5 or 4′ feet if you compare them to american people…

  25. I’m American and the girl on the commercial is curvier than me…… ;__;

  26. first of all…that dude is a fagget for talking about girly topics like that. wtf are u some homo fag locked in the closet. leave the girly topics for the girls. this days you tend to see men acting like women, dressed like women, talk about women topics.

  27. Hi Simon and Martina, I know this article is old but I’d like to ask you a question regarding idol’s real heights. According to the photo, it is extremely obvious that Kyuhyun the tallest member of Super Junior or 180cm apparently, is at least 5cm shorter than you. Now, you say you’re 171cm but I’m not sure if you were wearing heels in the photo but otherwise their tallest member would be 165cm? Now, I’m not sure what extend the media goes to lie about their heights but from 180 to 165~ is rather bizzare. Can you please take your time to answer my query regarding the real heights of these idols? I also know that they also wear insoles so thats another -5cm… Thanks for your time. (This is my second time posting the question, I think when i posted it before it didnt submit properly).

  28. Hi Simon and Martina, I would like to ask you a question and hope you would take your time to reply. About this article, the photo I see of Kyuhyun who is supposedly the tallest member in Super Junior is reported over 180cm in online websites. Now, you’re 170cm (Sorry if you don’t use cm as measurement units) and in that photo I don’t think the angle is weird but it is quite obvious that you are at least 5cm taller. This means that their tallest member is approximately 165cm according to the photo? Now I don’t know what extent the media goes to lie about the height but 165cm is a rather big lie by them. Can you please take your item to verify this query? I’m rather curious about the real height of idols and you also mentioned that Super Junior wear insoles too.

  29. Am I the only Fat Asian here? Yes? Okay…

  30. you should also add kim jeajong to the list coz i think he’s short too…
    and i have to tell you that i am taller then my 4 years older sister and taller then my mother and i felt very proud of myself …to consider that i am a high schooler and i am 18 and also i am 135cm…u most be thinking are u a nines’ family?…no u’re totally wrong coz this is just a normal high in my country which is BTW Morocco(12 hours away from Korea) and i should tell u that we have the same thing about weight coz i am only 52 kg
    and my friends consider me overweight….
    BTW am so happy that Korean stars are short( for u but in my country they’re quite tall)
    coz obviously they’ll fit with me spicially a certain persone called Lee donghae *day dreaming*

  31. LOL i’m six foot tall girl and proud of it.Although I’m a bit scared to travel to Korea now,because of your post.They will think I’m a monster.Have you met BigBang?They are as tall as they said?

  32. OH GOD i could not stop laughing when i saw the SJ photo and then i read about the shoe lifts i couldn’t help but laugh harder. Not because it’s funny just because my hopes and dreams of Taemin and Minho from SHINee would be close to my own hight. Also Simon, if you ever get a chance to stand next to SHINee please take a photo so that i have something to laugh about as they hall me away to a mental institute.

  33. Oh so like yuh guyz have already had an interview with B.A.P right? so like was simon taller then zelo? O___o Cuz Zelo iz really freakin’tall( n’not to mention, SEXAY ) n when u say ‘ their reported heights via online sources are totally false’ does that mean that zelo aint really 182cm? ;__;

  34. I think that what they mean with S-line is that her bones are kinda sticking out on her hips and that her waist are really small, so that gives her the “S-line” that we foreigners normally think of as her having “junk” on her chest and booty :) Different…..very…..

  35. it sounds like koreans should spend a day in america and see how many different body types there are. I can’t even remember the last time i  met a semi-chubby asian person. I’m asian (chinese) and I have a hard time gaining/losing weight, I seem to always stay in the 120lb range and I look perfectly fine I think.. I mean yeah, my stomach isn’t like ROCK solid but it’s not bulging out either. And I don’t really understand how you can weight very little and STILL have curves…I really don’t trust any korean idol profile, because all of them say that they’re like 166cm and more, and yet they all weigh around 100lbs. If you really see a person that is THAT tall and 100lbs, they appear very lanky and awkward, and most of all, FLAT.. lol 

  36. i just have a random question that i need to know…Is entering in Military a must for a foreigner who wants to live in korea? Or do foreigners really need to enter military if he wants to be a permanent korean citizen?

  37. Just saying, but if you think that is short, I’m 5ft2, and all of my friends bar 2 are 5ft7/8 plus. I get carried:(

  38. I’m an American and i’m 6’2 and 220 lbs. I have a little fat on the belly but most of my weight comes from muscle. First off, I just wonder if I even have a chance with a Korean woman, because apparently you can be TOO tall, and if they think someone who is 70kg is fat, my god I’m in for a world of hurt. I’ve always been attracted to smaller women so naturally I like Koreans, who seem to me to be the most attractive of the orientals IMO. I can’t believe they think they aren’t attractive or fat. It’s quite absurd. I actually am planning on moving to Korea in the next year or so, and would like to know the easiest way of doing so. Currently I manage a CVS in Ohio, but I have a year or so left (when I go back to school) to get my bachelors in History Education and I always thought it’d be a good experience to teach in Korea. I have talked to a few friends who were stationed there and they all seemed to enjoy it and said it was a fun place to be, just didn’t like being that far from home (which I have no problem with). Any kind of information would be awesome.

  39. i’m just wondering since you two are in Korea right now , i’m planning to go to Korea but i’m going with my friend which is Korean , and she is really pretty and has has a nice body figure , but on the other hand , I’m ugly (but apparently to people I’m “cute”) T_T and i’m kind of overweight , will they judge / compare me to her ?

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