Made in Korea

Filippo Venturi


South Korea

Until the ’60s, South Korea was almost a mediaeval country, poor and underdeveloped. After just 50 years, South Korea is now one of the most advanced countries in the world. The rush towards modernity has been fostered by imposing a huge sense of competition and a painstaking effort to reach scolastic, aesthetic and professional perfection.

Youngsters grow up by keeping in mind the same ideals and future aims: get the best marks to get the best jobs. At the same time, the aesthetic models are totally conformed, obtained through a massive us of plastic surgery.

The Country pushes the young generation towards an alienating standardization, the exact opposite of what happens in Western Countries, where success comes from one’s ability to emerge from the mass.

All this has caused dangerous side effects, such as stress, alcoholism, social isolation and a high suicide rate (South Korea has one of the highest suicide rates in the world: 43 per day).

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  • A family waits to be photographed on a green screen; lately a fake background will be put behind them, with the Acquarium of the city of Busan (South-East Korea).

  • Bodybuilders at Haeundae Beach in Busan.
    Koreans are mad about health and physical appearance. Here appearance matters most; both in terms of beauty and conformity to norms.

  • Clothes shop in Myeong-dong district, Seoul.
    Korean society tends to conformity: a degree in a prestigious University, a well-paid job, a good partner, a pleasant physical appearance, the same for everyone. This differenciates Korea from other countries, such as the USA, in which success means thinking out of the box. Conformity, however, kills creativity, individuality and suffocates all those who do not follow the rules.

  • Student at Korea University, Seoul.
    Korea University is one of the infamous SKY: Seoul International University, Korea University and Yonsei University, the most prestigious universities in this country. There is a saying in Korea dedicated to last-college-year students: if you sleep 3 hours per day you’ll manage to go to one of the SKY, if you sleep 4 hours per day you’ll manage to go to university, if you sleep 5 hours per day forget about university.

  • People on the escalators of Seoul’s tube.

  • Training session under the Seogang Bridge in Seoul.
    In South Korea it is quite normal to find gym gears at disposal in public spaces.

  • Kids playing a courtyard, Seoul.

  • Students of a high school in Hongdae district, Seoul.
    High school marks the beginning of extremely hard times for Korean students. Studying hours sometimes reach a peak of 21 hours per day, mostly during the last year, when students try hard to pass the University admission test, the CSAT: on the results of this test depend the future of every student. South Korea has the highest suicide rate of the industrialized world and many suicides are young students who break under the pressure of university tests and the will of parents who want their offspring to go to the most prestigious institutions.

  • Ad poster in a plastic surgery clinic in Seoul.
    With a rate of 13,3 interventions every 1.000 inhabitants, South Korea has the highest number of plastic surgery interventions in the world, and the highest number of plastic surgeons per capita. This obsession goes beyond gender. Among the most popular interventions one can count European eyes and nose, The latest trend is the “smile lipt”, a deformation of the lips in order to get a permanent smile. Quite often parents buy, as a graduation gift, a plastic surgery intervention for their children in order to celebrate their achievement.

  • Young girl in front of Samsung Town, the company’s headquarters in the Gangnam district, Seoul. Samsung is the symbol of the South Korean economic dream.

  • Samsung d’light – A young guy tries on a virtual reality viewer. Samsung d’light is an exhibition area that shows the latest technology products produced by Samsung Electronics, in Gangnam district , Seoul. Samsung is the most important private company of South Korea and alone produces a fifith of the country’s GDP.

  • A fawn in Songdo International Business District.

  • Hongdae district – Young guy in a PC room.
    Young guys and girls play all night long in 0-24 gigantic amusement arcades.

  • Study room, Korea University, Seoul.
    Families put lots of efforts in their childen’s education and this, added to a typical Asiatic sense of duty, forsters competion with dangerous consequences in case of failure such as, in some cases, suicide.

  • Young people asleep in a cafè in Hongdae district, Seoul.
    Drinking alcohol, especially soju, is a social event diffused among colleagues and friends. In the evening it is quite frequent to see young people drunk in the streets. Soju is a Korean liquor and in 2011 it emerged as the most diffused spirit in the world, notwithstanding the fact that it is diffused only in Korea.

  • Drunk man in Seoul.
    When they do not work, Koreans celebrate business and success by drinking soju, the national liquor. Usually bosses take the initiatives and to refuse is considered bad manners.