Here’s Why I Think South Korea Is More Than Just Its Beauty Hauls

Here’s Why I Think South Korea Is More Than Just Its Beauty Hauls

Denise shares her thoughts on where true inner beauty lies beyond the beauty products, standards and cosmetic culture in South Korea.
travel south korea

Image credit: Matthias Ripp

When it comes to South Korea, most people think of beauty, K-pop/K-dramas, and kimchi. Cue the insane 10-step K-beauty routine, juicy K-pop star scandals, and that delicious Korean barbecued meat that tastes so good (especially when wrapped in a piece of grilled kimchi).

However, a five-month stay in Seoul has shown me that South Korea is more than its dazzling surface. Beneath the hype of living the ‘K-drama’ life, the demands of modern city life and strong Korean culture have created an interesting fusion that has been forgotten amidst the excitement over its famed beauty industry.


Known for being a strong collectivistic society, many South Koreans adhere to their norms as if it were the gospel truth. Just from a quick scan of the streets, one will realize that one too many South Koreans have the same makeup look or similar hairstyles. There’s no doubt that people fear standing out amongst their social circle, hence sticking to the popular look of the masses to blend in well.

Gif credit: Tenor

While this may sound awfully tiring and repressive, it is this strong compliance with norms that has managed to keep a crucial part of their values – respect. The South Koreans’ respectful mannerism is one of the most curious aspects of their culture. White-collared workers look down, bow, and speak respectfully to their boss – even over the phone as if seeing them in person! Treating all things with respect, the way they eat, speak and interact holds an element of thoughtfulness that is more often than not, washed away by modern culture.

The strong norms in South Korea have often been criticized as the key factor to a society where individuality is diminished. Yet, a close observation of the culture can’t help but make one feel that it is this very trait of the people that have enforced the Korean way of communication in itself.


Moving on to the favorite topic of all foodies, Korean cuisine has definitely accumulated a strong fan following for its aesthetically appealing and flavorful dishes. The reason is simple – the food is often prepared fresh by a thoughtful chef behind the scene.

travel south korea

Image credit: Republic of Korea

Take the staple kimchi as an example – every household/restaurant has their own secret recipe. When the kimchi supply runs low, ahjummas (Korean for ‘Aunties’), put on their iconic long rubber gloves and prepare for a massive kitchen operation involving tons of napa cabbage and condiments to get down and dirty for some fresh kimchi. These kimchi-making sessions tend to carry a light-hearted atmosphere where the ahjummas laugh and talk while toiling hard to make the best kimchi for consumption.

From the consumer’s perspective, the ahjummas’ efforts are often seen in many ways. Well-seasoned with its own unique flavor, the kimchi is cut into bite-sized pieces and is uniformly coated in the sauce such that every piece is as delicious as its counterpart.

The effort put into the Korean food is evident from their kimchi served. In every dish, food is meticulously prepared in hopes of giving diners a more delightful dining experience, as well as to give them more strength to carry out their daily activities.

Smaller Cities  

Last but not least, the hidden gems of South Korea. Like most Singaporeans, my previous week-long holidays in Korea were too packed with shopping trips and touristy activities in Seoul that left me with no time to explore anywhere else.

travel south korea

Image credit: chiu yu ju

Stepping out of Seoul was an entirely new experience. To name a few of my favorite cities, I thoroughly enjoyed Yeosu, Sokcho, and Inje. I could almost hear the “What? Come again?”, but trust me, travelling out of Seoul to these places are definitely worth your time and the google searches.

Basking in the chill and relaxed vibe, my footsteps couldn’t help but feel lighter amidst the slower pace. Tourist sites offer breathtaking views (and photos) untainted by unruly tourists. Locals were often much friendlier, stopping by to make small talk despite the language barrier, and always ready to help out another tourist in town. All these added up to a special experience that really brought me inner peace and a cathartic appreciation of life.

Personally, digging deeper into South Korea has shown me more than just surface makeup. Its true beauty lies within its cities where people carry a sincere heart, giving their best to every little detail in their daily lives. This translates to the many wonderful things that we enjoy about their culture, including the heartwarming, hearty food that sits on top of every tabletop to the warm and friendly people you meet on the streets.

South Korea may be famed as Asia’s beauty capital, but its true charm lies within the beauty of the South Korean spirit.

About Author

Denise Tan
Denise Tan

Denise is your typical Singaporean girl who loves food, sleep, and hiking. If you would like to ask her for a favor, treat her to some nice hawker fare or bring her to a park for some fresh air. It takes a lot for her to say no to free food and beautiful sights. Other than that, she also loves drawing comics for her Instagram page @adventuresoftaniatan@ to share funny life moments with anyone in need of a laugh.