Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Media Watch: Korea

[With the usual reservations about the transliteration of Korean names...]

Despite an emphasis on appearance that has fueled a $5-billion plastic surgery industry, until recently, physical fitness was not much of a priority for Korean women. Thinness was so prized that young women often steered clear of sports such as hiking and cycling, for fear they would leave them with thicker legs. But the ideal of beauty is evolving, and women's fitness has become a growth business, say purveyors of health products, from diet supplements to dumb-bells. "Women used to starve in order to lose weight, said celebrity trainer Ray Yang. "Now they exercise."

Myeong Ju-Gwon is all about the gainz

This story, picked up by FMS last week via Reuters, since repeated - verbatim - all over the place, seems to be very good news. We have known (or at least suspected) for some time that Korea was starting to punch well above its weight in terms of female muscle (see our week of Koreans from September last year). But it seems Korea is not just producing many of the most outstanding female bodybuilders in Asia but also undergoing a cultural attitude shift towards female muscle that the dreamy optimist in me imagines will result in the country becoming the Brazil of its region.

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The beautiful back of Kim Yeong Ah; Kim Mi-seon flexes sexy abs on stage,
and, in the mirror, #1 Korean, Yeon Woo-Ji shows off impressively shredded legs

Are women like Yeon Woo-Ji, probably the most successful Korean female bodybuilder ever at international level, responsible for this shift? I wondered. Sadly, according to the article, "no" seems to be the answer to that question.

"Many fitness conscious Korean women are adopting as role models well-toned celebrities, from domestic K-pop girl group Sistar's Hyorin, to global figures such as U.S. first lady Michelle Obama and Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge," said Kim Min-jeong, a professor of Global Sports Science at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. "The strength, the outer beauty of muscles, the positive attitudes and energetic images of these women have become the motivation."

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Not quite what I had in mind, but though the above examples may not represent what you or I consider to be muscular, if I'm a Korean female muscle head and these so-called muscular celebrities are getting more Korean women to the gym, I am not complaining. Female bodybuilders have always been the kind of avant garde rather than the mainstream ideal of women's fitness anyway, no matter what the country, always several muscular steps ahead of current female body aspirations.

Song Naeun pumps up backstage

Nevertheless, when I see clips of Korean bodybuilding shows, I can't help being struck by the incredible production values. Take, for instance, this clip of the absolutely spectacular Kim Ji Hyun at the Korean Musclemania show from this year. I'm not saying the Rising Phoenix was amateurish, but there are aspects of the camera work, the lighting and so on apparent in this clip that make the coverage and production of that showpiece female bodybuilding event look rather amateurish in comparison.

And it only takes a small percentage of the ladies inspired by the zeitgeist for female fitness to take their interest to the next level to add up to a significant increase in the amount of female muscle in the country. And following on from there, even if only a small percentage of those women decide a bona fide muscle goddess like "Chunri" is the body idol they really want to emulate, then rock sttar productions such as this can only add to the attraction. Minimum net result? More beautiful Korean muscle.

Sounds all good to me!

Read the full article here.

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