In consideration of the BLM movement, I had a further think about the issues surrounding the misrepresentation of diversity in the k-beauty industry. I’ve spoken about this concern in the past, but last night I stayed up to write this blog post. I’m not sure how my words will be persevered, however I hope I convey well what some of you may have been thinking too.
Just like in any industry the K-Beauty scene has had its fair share of highs and lows. As someone who’s blog and social media outlets primarily focus on this particular subcategory of beauty, and as some who has experienced living in Korea, I want to discuss with you the not so widely spoken diversity issues in the K-Beauty industry.
By no means is this article a chance to name and shame anyone or any brand/company, nor is it to deter you from seeing the countless benefits of exploring K-Beauty or bring in-touch with Korean culture and it is most certainly not an opportunity to point the finger at Koreans in a negative light.
Simply this is a message to K-Beauty brands. Some words which I hope will come to the forefront of your minds when you next gather in a meeting room to collate new ideas for your next marketing campaign.
And please don’t use diversity or the BLM movement as a marketing tool.
What is the issue?
The issue stretches further than not providing an extensive shade range when it comes to base makeup. It’s the basic principle of understanding what is diversity, or as I should say the sheer lack of understanding.
Within recent years we’ve seen mixed raced and Caucasian models as the faces of well established K-Beauty brands – most of time this is a brand’s pathway to “overcome” the backlash regarding the use of only Korean or East Asian models, in a beauty industry which involves more diverse consumers now that Korea is a developed/developing country since it’s independence from the North.
However, there seems to be a common disregard to what diversity actually is. There isn’t recognition or inclusiveness of all races – just a select few. Of course this is not a clear matter of stereotyping and doesn’t necessarily mean a brand are intentionally being racist in a malicious or meticulous way. These behaviours stem from education… or the lack of it centring around world cultures. It’s not an holistic education.
For a country which is thriving by distributing it’s advanced technology and beauty products across the globe and sees more and more tourists by year, you’d think the understanding of diversity would have be grasped by now. Unfortunately that’s not the case for a portion of the those involved in the development of K-Beauty (as well as other lines of work).
Times are changing, but not fast enough.
With travel and social media having a impact on the younger generation of Korea, and of course in some cases on the older generations, a basic understanding of diversity and the importance of representing it is in practice. People can enrole in foreign studies and travel abroad to get a taste of matters which contribute to understanding and respect of diversity: respecting all.
Although in a culture which pride themselves on upholding politeness, as all people should, it’s hard to break the habits of not speaking up on controversial or touchy subjects: to not be so called “narrow-minded”. It’s all well to sit in a classroom and be taught the ins-and-outs of another countries’ battles and hardships, but that doesn’t block out the other educational influences around us: the social influences and biased media outlets reached in everyday life which shape us as individuals & our personal opinions.
What I want to say is, you can still maintain politeness and ask questions that may spark an emotional response (negative or positive) regarding the understanding of others who are of a different race or culture to our own. I think many who have lived outside of a culture of their own can say they’d much rather be asked an “awkward” question and debunk negative connotations, rather than permit someone to continue to spread prejudice opinions which can make someone feel totally unwelcome and disrespected purely because the perpetrator(s) we’re misinformed or uniformed of the truth.
So, to K-Beauty brands who have felt discouraged to speak up about all things concerned with being inclusive of all races, ethnicities and cultures I urge you to please speak up. Be the ones to mark the change.
A change in which we can all live as equal, a world where diversity is the norm – because it is the norm.
Please reach out to consumers and creators who appreciate your products, and openly discuss with them how you can close the gap on both intentional and unintentional racism and put a hault to the exclusion of certain people. Ask what they need from you, and in turn you will flourish in fairness.