Why Koreans Don’t Have Beard? | 5 Reasons You Should Know!

by Jih Yun

Do Korean men even need razors? Think K-drama, Think BTS. Keep reading to find out why Koreans don’t have a beard. Or do they just prefer not to keep one?

Korean men have the tendency to age slower and that is directly proportional to how slow their beards reach full growth. Korean men can grow facial hair, but why did the ‘lather, shave, repeat’ become an everyday thing in Korean men’s lives?

Why Koreans Don’t Have Beard

Can Korean men even grow facial hair?

After that intro, I bet you wondered whether the Korean men’s ability to grow facial hair is questionable. In all honesty, they can grow beards. They do have facial hair on their faces like every other man in the world, albeit quite sparse. 

why korean men dont have beards

How much do Korean genetics and history play a role in growing facial hair? 

I started to think that their past had a little bit to do with this. I have seen pictures of Korean emperors and I was quite confused. Must’ve been an evolutionary thing I thought.

The way the beard is viewed amongst Korean men changed over centuries. Generally noticed, Asian men have always had lighter beards than men from Western countries. The amount of testosterone and DHT produced in Asian men is much lower than in men from the west.

We could attribute evolution to that. During the migratory period, people’s bodies began to adapt to where they lived. People who lived in colder regions developed hair over the body to deal with the cold, and people in regions with a more moderate climate, Korea for instance, did not.

The change can be seen over three periods. The Joseon Era in the 14th century, Gwangmu Era from 1897 to the 1900s and the period after that. In the deep Jaeson era, it was an offensive thing to harm any part of the body, even hair. SO removing body hair or any hair on the body was out of question. That’s why in the photos of Korean history, you can see that Korean men had beards. 

With the advent of the Gwangmu Era, the modernization of Korea began. People started seeing the benefits of a Westernized culture and that took to the beards as well. A westernized military-style look was adopted. Suddenly everyone was cleanly shaven.

After the colonisation in the 1900s, even though this shit to modernization happened, a large section of the older population preferred to keep a moustache as favoured by Emperor Meiji. It is still okay for older men in Korea to keep a moustache. 

In fact, in some deep parts of Korea, it is found almost disrespectful to not have a moustache when the elder of the family has one. Respect for the elders is an understandably important thing in Korean culture. So having a beard can be a thing of rebellion and not having a beard can be called shamelessness.

Yeah, it’s quite the controversy.

Fear of judgement from other Koreans for growing a beard

Now, being cleanly shaven in Korea is associated with being young, successful, smart and intelligent. This whole notion is popularized by the media. If You’d look at any popular K-drama. You’d see that just before the protagonist is about to hit rock bottom in the show, they stop grooming themselves and have a face that is unkept with a sparse beard.

Regardless of whether the men in real life like to keep a beard, if they do keep one, they are going to be perceived as someone who has ‘lost his way’, and can’t keep off alcohol and drugs. You are thoroughly judged.

Women’s “opinions” on Korean men with beard

People asking for opinions on others’ bodies has never been something I have been okay with. I’m betraying my integrity by reporting this to you, but of course, women seemed to have an opinion on men and their bearded-ness.

It’s a very twisted way of seeing this, but maybe this is finally a country where there is undesirability of hair on both men and women, not just the latter. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I spoke about the effect of media and pop culture. The clean-shaven faces of the K-pop stars are being used as boyfriend ideals. 

Many Korean women, girls have varied thoughts about how facial hair looks on Korean men. One of them seems to think it seems as if having facial hair means he doesn’t try hard enough and doesn’t care about his appearance. It says something negative about the character.

Another woman seemed to hold this belief but kept an exception. Foreign men are excused. They look stylish and well-groomed.

In contrast to that, some women seemed to think that it makes a man look strong where one of the women didn’t seem to care. It doesn’t matter whether or not a man had a beard.

Meeting Beauty standards for men in Korea

why korean men dont keep a beard

To be honest, I wasn’t surprised to find out why appearance is so important to Koreans. We all know what the Korean beauty standards are. Poreless, smooth, even-toned skin with not a blemish. It’s almost unnatural. Men are held to the same standards (for once).

Many Korean men go through laser procedures to slow down and stop altogether the growth of their facial hair. Shaving every day started to seem a bit too cumbersome. 

On a side note, North Korean government propaganda began a television program back in 2004. It was called “Let’s trim our hair in accordance with the socialist lifestyle”. This program dictated how the men should be dressing and grooming. This program also claimed that the length of the human hair affected human intelligence. The longer the hair is, the more nutrients it pulls to grow and the less you have for the rest of your body.

Um, okay. We’ll let that slide.

Beards are now “dirty sexy” in Korean Movies

“Dirty sexy” is really becoming a trend in some Korean movies. The association of dirty, despite something being sexy just, proves how hell-bent the Koreans are and unaccepting of facial hair on men.

Besides, some women do find beards appealing, although not on Korean men. But Korean stars are changing that. Additionally, the clerks at Louis Vuitton in Gangnam, the richest part of Korea, grow a beard. Weird, right? Aren’t they supposed to clean-shaven? When they were asked why they did that, they responded with a coy, ‘to give the taste of the French culture’.

Beards — A financial signifier for Korean men

why koeans dont have beard

As we have already seen, it is common in Korea to judge people based on how much facial hair they have. Anything except none would mean an assumption that a person isn’t well to do or not sophisticated.

That’s like saying that all it takes is for you to shave to pull off easily blending in with the crowd at a coveted club in Korea. Unbelievable!

At some jobs and workplaces, male employees absolutely have to shave everyday. Even a small stubble isn’t allowed. 

It’s simple, ladies and gentlemen. Why don’t Koreans have a beard? It’s because they shave it. They have to.

BTS’ take on growing facial hair

In a television broadcast, the members from the BTS ARMY revealed why their facial hair and beards are never viable. J-hope, Suga, and V actually spoke about how they have to undergo rigorous treatments to keep their beard growth under control.

V usually likes a little bit of stubble but keeps a clean shaven look. J-Hope kept a little facial hair when he started off with BTS, but his growth hasn’t been fast, so the look seemed unkempt. There have been times he has forgotten to shave so he wore a mask to cover it up in interviews. 

Suga also liked his moustache, he had a thick one, but when he began apprenticing with BTS, he fearfully took it off because he was new. Nobody has been forced to remove their facial hair from the group.

Do Korean men remove their body hair?

Korea is very popular for its laser hair removal treatments. Considering the beauty standards that exist in Korea, body hair is considered barbaric. It is extremely normal for men to not have body hair in Korea.

Is it illegal to grow beard in South Korea? 

No rules exist in the present day, but back in the 1970s, Park Cung Hee, the then president of South Korea came up with a ridiculous rule about hair. There was no specific length, but if somebody’s hair was not trimmed to a short length, they were taken to the police station and given a haircut against their will.

Are beards common in Korea?

Only about 30% of Koreans have a beard. Since there are no laws, in specific, you’re allowed to maintain a beard. Of course, being indifferent to judgement is important.

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