Have you ever been in a situation where you met a person who was dressed just like you? One must feel at least a little embarrassed or uncomfortable, and might end up laughing. However, South Korea is one of the countries where it happens quite often and people don’t consider it as a problem. In this post I will be discussing about how much trends are important in Korean society, focusing on appearance and touching on fashion.
There is a korean yuhaeng (유행) which describes people who very much enjoy and adopt trends very fast. This word can be used in a much more broader sense and have a big significance to Korean society, which is not limited to the categories of fashion (outfits, hairstyles) that a lot of people follow. It can also be applicable to trendy dishes, books, words, places, lifestyles.
Daria Todorova, a professor from King Sejong Institute in Moscow shares that most of the Koreans consider other people’s preference in trends as important as their own. Even the people who tend not to follow current trends still feel uncomfortable when they find themselves being different than the majority of people around them.
Thus, it takes very little time for something to become very popular and turn into a trend in Korea. Its impact on society can be very significant. For instance, In August of 2014, Haetae Confectionary & Foods Co., along with Japanese snack food enterprise Calbee Inc., introduced to Korean market a new type of snack: Honey Butter Chips. Soon after the K-pop stars such as Sooyoung of Girl’s Generation, Siwon of Super Junior, and T-ara’s Hyomin started posting their pictures with the snack online, the Honey Butter Chips went viral. The shops and convenient stores were sold out instantaneously and had to put up posters informing the customers about the next restock.
Influential yuhaeng have made South Korea a new trendsetter, a new and developing market where the foreign fashion brands want to test out their products and reach out to the larger Asian market. However, it has been causing social issues as well.
Starting from 2011, the North Face became the number one seller in outdoor winter wear jackets for teenagers.
The jackets were so popular that it almost became a “uniform” among every middle and a high schooler. A lot of them committed crimes trying to earn enough money to purchase a jacket. In January 2012 Los Angeles Times have reported that half a dozen of teenagers in South Korea have committed suicide, have been robbed and bullied as a result. Sadly, this became a big social issue that was broadcasted on national channels.
Trends will always exist, coming and going away. Following the trends and keeping a pace with the time is not a bad thing, however it might lead people into focusing too much on having materialistic values and displaying their success and wealth on a social level.