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Overweight in Seoul

Stockholm, Sweden
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Overweight in Seoul

Hello,

I've tried to google answers to this, but couldn't find anything particular to Seoul/South Korea. I want to take my sister to South Korea next spring - its been her dream to visit Asia ever since I can remember and she's turning 30 this year. When I asked her if she would go, she was a lot less enthusiastic than I imagined she would be, and explained that it's because she's overweight and doesn't want to be laughed at or made fun of.

I know this is her dream; she's obsessed with K-Pop and K-Dramas. I don't want her to feel like she has to give up on her dream because of her weight, but I also don't want to reassure her that nobody will treat her badly because of her weight when I have no idea if they will. When I was an exchange student in Japan, my host mother called me fat almost daily, even though I only weighed about 70kg. But that was Japan, and a family I was staying with - not Korea and interacting with strangers.

Would her weight be a problem in Korea? Would people treat her badly?

Thanks so much!

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25 replies to this topic
Rayleigh, United...
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for Seoul, Rothenburg
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1. Re: Overweight in Seoul

I don't think there'd be a problem. I think Koreans tend to ignore everyone except where they've been introduced.

California
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2. Re: Overweight in Seoul

The obesity rate in Korea is the second lowest among OECD countries, Japan being the lowest, with Italy the third lowest.

Generally speaking, Koreans are a friendly, mind your own business sort of people, and I doubt that there would be any demonstrations of hostility. That being said, Seoul is also a very crowded metropolis, with uncomfortable rush hours that might not be agreeable to many. Plus, tourism in Seoul requires a lot of walking. So your friend, overweight or not, should prepare herself to do a lot of walking and maybe to tackle very crowded trains.

Albuquerque, NM
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3. Re: Overweight in Seoul

A few older people are chunkie but the young are unbelievably healthy. Especially the flight attendants on Asiana. I would swear they were clones.

Tampa, FL
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4. Re: Overweight in Seoul

No one will treat her badly because of her weight. There are overweight Koreans too. While you do not see a lot of overweight younger Koreans, you do occasionally see an overweight student (more boys than girls). My half-sister is on the larger size for a 15 year old Korean female.

I will share one story with you. I was shopping in Dongdaemun with my step-mom (who is Korean) when I was about a size 5 or 7 US size. I saw a cute outfit so I had my step-mom ask the shop lady if they had my size. The shop lady looked directly at me and said in English "We have small size, you go large size." Hmm... it wasn't meant to be an insult. Koreans in general tend to be very direct. Like if I have a pimple on my face, it may be pointed out immediately upon arrival at my step-moms with what is on my face, is that a pimple. You might get "you look so tired" other comments. As long as she understands comments that seem direct and slightly rude, are not intended as rude. My step-mom has also told me "you look prettier when you smile, you don't look pretty when you don't smile." uh, ,thanks. :)

Edited: May 04, 2018, 9:32 am
Seoul, South Korea
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for South Korea, Seoul
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5. Re: Overweight in Seoul

Your friend will be fine. I'm a large American (180 cm, 125 kg) and people don't really care. Especially as a Westerner we are kind of expected to be "big." I've lived here 7 years and no one has ever been mean to me, refused me service or anything like that....and I know plenty of bigger people here, too.

California
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6. Re: Overweight in Seoul

At times when Koreans say you look tired they also mean that you have been working hard.

The OP should be aware that among young women, for better or worse, there is a big emphasis on beauty, which is why there is so much emphasis on plastic surgery and cosmetics. This is mostly a self absorbed emphasis and doesn't spill over to foreigners. Young Korean women incidentally are generally as short as their Japanese counterparts, and one aspect of the K-pop boom is based on the attractiveness of the boys and girls in their bands.

Seoul, South Korea
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7. Re: Overweight in Seoul

There’s quite a few fat Koreans nowadays; way more than when I moved here nearly a decade ago. Granted, it’s not US-level and mobility scooters and morbid obesity aren’t a thing here.

Koreans wouldn’t say anything because they don’t know her (or, at least, wouldn’t come up to her and call her fat; a rare person might comment in Korean to their companion).

California
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8. Re: Overweight in Seoul

I meant to say that young Korean women are NOT as short as their Japanese counterparts.

New York City, New...
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9. Re: Overweight in Seoul

Your sister will be fine. There might be people that mumbles amongst themselves because it is a society that is obsessed with looks. But 99.9% no one will say or do anything rude. Generally people are nice and minds their own business.

Phoenix, Arizona
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10. Re: Overweight in Seoul

In my experience, people in Seoul tend to mind their business. I recently went for vacation to Seoul in March and had a really great time. I am 5'4 at 200 lbs and did not have one poor experience due to my weight. Like previously stated, there is a lot of walking involved and as I was adventuring across Seoul, I was walking (on avg) about 15 miles per day and going up about 30-40 flights of stairs per day. That being said, it might be more apt to advise your friend to expect a lot of walking/stairs and to wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Also, there aren't any dressing rooms (that I saw) and to be prepared for the crowded trains.

Additionally, not many people (especially older folk) will speak English and you won't understand what is being said unless you understand Korean. So! I fully believe that you both will have an enjoyable and unforgettable (in a good way) experience!

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