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Lifestyle A South Korean reporter wore glasses on TV in a dramatic break with the country's insane beauty standards for women

  • Published:

MBC News/YouTube/Business Insider

  • A South Korean news anchor challenged her country's beauty norms by appearing on air with glasses.
  • Lim Hyeon-ju used to wear contact lenses and false lashes every day after waking up at 2:40 a.m. for an early morning shift.
  • She made the change after her eyes became too dry and it was tough for her to focus.
  • While male anchors often wear glasses on air, this was the first time a female presenter for a major TV network had done so.


A South Korean news anchor defied her country's stringent beauty norms for women by deciding to ditch her contact lenses and false eyelashes, and wear glasses on air instead.

Lim Hyeon-ju, who typically wakes up at 2:40 a.m. every day for her 6 a.m. broadcast, started appearing last month on the Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) morning show with a pair of black-and-gold, round-framed glasses.

Male broadcasters on South Korea often appear on air wearing glasses, but this was the first time a female presenter for a major TV network had done so, according to Korea's Yonhap News agency.

Lim's eyes had become so dry and tired from wearing contact lenses and false lashes every day that she had to use artificial tears to moisten them, the anchor told Yonhap. She added that she found it difficult to work because her eyes were so dry.

She wrote in an Instagram post, which has garnered hundreds of messages of support:

"I have to wake up early in the morning for the morning news, but when I have insufficient sleeping time and short preparation time, I sometimes want to wear glasses. I felt I could focus more on the news if I reduced my time and fatigue. [...]

"Viewers are also focusing on the nature on the news, not the appearance of the anchor."

Lim added that she "needed a little courage" to wear glasses on air at first, but has since become encouraged by her thousands of messages of support that she would continue to do so. She has regularly worn glasses in her broadcasts ever since.

South Korean women are held to notoriously high standards for beauty — the country has the most cosmetic surgeries per capita in the world, with almost one million procedures every year.

Not wearing a full face of makeup to work — regardless of the industry — can also be deemed unprofessional in certain South Korean offices, Quartz reported.

A recent poll also found that more than half of 552 South Korean workers polled said they had never seen a female coworker in glasses before — even though 70% of South Korea's population under 30 are reported to be near-sighted, Quartz noted.

Furthermore, because South Korean job postings typically require photographs, as well as asking for applicants' height and weight, many applicants have said they felt pressured to appear attractive.

A 2016 survey by a national job portal found that more than 60% of human resources personnel found that an applicant's appearance affected his or her chances at getting the job.

One in three South Korean women between 19 and 29 have already undergone cosmetic surgery, Gallup Korea found in 2015.

The most popular procedure is the "double-eyelid" surgery, which creates creases in the eyelids that result in the appearance of bigger eyes. Another popular one is the "smile surgery," which makes the person look like they have a slightly upturned mouth at all times.