We are living in a world where people’s most prized possessions are becoming their mirrors. All across Seoul, appearance is becoming the measure of a man’s worth. Despite the rage over diets and cosmetics all over the city, Gwanak seems yet peaceful. How far, if it has at all, has this obsession spread inside Gwanak? The SNU Quill surveyed students from a variety of colleges in SNU to understand how much SNU students were aware of the current trend of judging people based on their appearance, and what they thought about the phenomenon. Although from outside SNU is widely perceived as an exception to the rule when it comes to the pressures of appearance, many students on campus were obviously stressed from the feeling of needing to tend to their appearance in order to “succeed.” The Quill wanted to find out exactly how much, if at all, this trend was affecting SNU students’ lives.
The survey included questions asking about topics ranging from general feelings of being assessed by other people on campus to spending habits and perceptions of other people. It covered a variety of topics related to the overarching theme of appearance, hitting subjects including cosmetic surgery, luxury brands, and employment. The results of some of the questions are shown in the graphs. Please note that the numbers have a margin of error due to some participants not answering some questions or choosing multiple answers.
1. When people passing by you laugh, have you ever checked yourself, thinking that they were laughing at your appearance?
Yes – 70
No – 105
2. Do you always spend time fixing your appearance (putting on contact lenses, wearing makeup, etc.), even if it means being late to class?
Yes – 61
No – 114
3. What percentage of your total expenses is taken up by consumption related to appearance (apparel, skin care, makeup, etc.)?
Less than 10% - 40
10~20% - 51
30~50% - 27
More than 50% - 7
4. When do you think appearance has the most influnece over social relationships?
Before entering college – 16
First two years of college – 100
Later years in college – 12
After graduation (including graduate school) – 29
5. When you see a person wearing or carrying luxury items, what is your standard for differentiating between people who “dress well” and people who are “wasteful?”
The sophistication of style – 64
Appropriateness to time and place – 69
No difference; they all seem like good dressers – 4
No difference; they all seem like money wasters – 5
6. Have you ever purchased a ‘fake’ luxury item?
Yes – 43
No – 134
6-1. If you answered yes, why did you purchase that item?
I liked the item regardless of its brand design – 25
The actual item was too expensive – 11
7. What do you think is the most important factor other than professional capability in finding employment?
Family background – 27
Facial appearance – 48
Dress – 14
Polite attitude – 93
8. When applying for employment in the private sector, how important is appearance?
Very important – 24
Important – 140
Unimportant – 12
9. Did you consider plastic surgery before entering college?
Yes – 26
No – 148
10. Why do you think most people who receive plastic surgery do so?
Self-satisfaction – 65
Social pressures – 15
Employment – 0
To look good to others – 87
11. Society holds the prejudice that SNU students are not as attractive, or do not spend as much effort as others on their appearance. Do you agree?
The prejudice is generally correct – 86
The prejudice is completely incorrect – 64
12. Even within SNU, there exist preconceptions about students of certain colleges being more physically atractive than those of others. Do you have such a preconception?
Yes – 105
No – 71
12-1. If you answered yes, which college has the best “image?”
College of Music – 43
College of Fine Art – 30
College of Business Administration – 31
College of Life Sciences – 14
College of Humanities – 11
Other – 8
While analyzing results from the survey, some interesting patterns were found. First of all, the amount of money spent by most SNU students on appearance was surprising. Most students answered that they spent 20~30% of their total allowance on items relating to their appearance. Even in the midst of an economic crisis, the willingness to spend this much money on appearance illustrates that SNU students feel they need to constantly invest in their appearance as a way to ensure their futures. This spending pattern was not limited to female students. Even some male students answered that they spend more than half of their money on their appearances, showing that male students are also beginning to feel social pressures to present themselves as physically attractive in order to succeed.
Another interesting pattern was found in the period of time in which students felt that appearance mattered most in social relationships. Although the overall totals showed a clear majority voting for the ‘first two years of college,’ a more careful breakdown of the answers to this question showed that students generally chose the period of life that they were currently in. That is, the majority of votes were focused on the ‘first two years of life’ answer choice because most of the survey participants were currently freshmen or sophomores. Older students tended to choose ‘the later years of college’ or ‘after graduation’ answer choices. This showed that SNU students, no matter what their age, felt that they were currently being judged by society based on their appearance.
written by: Pia Won, Choi Seohyun