Jul 14, 2009  •  In Beauty, Information, Korean, Personal

Koreans and the Small Face Phenomenon

Having grown up in the U.S., I have heard on more than one occasion that celebrities possess larger heads compared to those of the general population, the idea being that the larger head will have larger features, which will show better on screen. There is even an episode of Entourage where Turtle proclaims, “The bigger the head, the bigger the star.”

However, in Korea, the exact opposite is true. The smaller your head/face, the more attractive you are.

A picture of Ivy, a Korean celebrity, posing between two fans.
Notice how small her face is compared to that of “normal” people.
(image source)

It is not uncommon for foreigners to be utterly confounded when first met with this phenomenon. “Gosh, your face is so small!” may sound like an inappropriate remark, but it is in fact a high compliment among Koreans.

Online Korean forums are often abuzz with face size discussions. When debating up-and-coming stars, it is not unusual to find comments such as “Her face is so small…she’s so pretty!” or “She’ll never make it because her head is too big.” In 2008, one of the most popular articles on Naver, a Yahoo-like portal, concerned the average Korean face size.

Koreans’ fascination with small faces often delve deep into the celebrity world, with stars with unusually small (and coveted) faces are asked to hold up every-day objects next to their heads…even busting out measuring tapes for proof!

Actress Han Yehseul can cover her entire face with a CD. (image source)

Model/actress Koh Ara’s face is a mere 17cm, or 6.69 inches, long. (image source)

I’m not really sure where the small face phenomenon originated. However, it is widely believed among Koreans that small faces photograph/video well, and that a smaller face will make you look skinner in photos as well. In a culture so obsessed with media and image, it is not difficult to see how this idea established such a strong foothold in the Korean psyche.

The cultural fixation on small faces has even coined a new term: the “V-line.” To Koreans, a small, perfectly oval face is no longer ideal. That oval must be made even smaller to create a V (a pointed chin).

Koreans are so obsessed with small faces that one of the most popular cosmetic surgery procedures involves shaving down one’s cheeks and jawline to undo what mother nature gave you. Take a look at these “before” and “after” photos of actress Park Minyoung:

(image source)

I once read that the jaw-shaving surgery is so in demand because it kills two birds with one stone: your diet is restricted to liquids for a full month after surgery, so you end up losing a lot of weight too!

I’m not sure where I stand on this issue. I think that if the size of your head/face is in proportion with the rest of your body, you should be happy, no? However, the Korean side of me longs to have a small face, because let’s face it – I have a rather large head.

And with that in mind, I have one last question: is it possible to be pretty, or even beautiful, with a large face?

119 Responses to “Koreans and the Small Face Phenomenon”

  1. Stephanie Hidalgo:

    Ya small face make attraction so that why i am using face smaller tool that is face thin which is make my face thinner and smaller.

  2. Eugenia Lieu:

    Hello, Korean Ladies. Sure, a small face is attractive, but Black People are very obssessed with me about my coarse-face. I have a broad-face, and pointy-chin. Black People doesn’t feel like being sentimental. They never feel they have the need to have a refined feeling towards themselves.

    • Chuchu:

      What do Black people have to do with Koreans having big heads and flat faces? Nothing!! Keep black people out of this stupid issue of Koreans having insecurity problems with the shapes of their faces, eyes, noses and chins.

    • Beezus:

      Your post doesn’t make any sense. First of all, what do you mean by “coarse face”? You need to shave? You have rough skin?

      Secondly, why would Black people care more or less about your face than anybody else?

      Thirdly, you are using the word “sentimental” incorrectly. I don’t know what you’re trying to say but whatever it is, the sentence you wrote is not conveying it.

  3. “Osu” (I understand)

  4. aboutdevora:

    Is it weird? I think a person who have a small face looks attractive. bcaz it looks pretty when they put on clothes. Koreans consider as the body’s ratio significantly. But I don’t know why happend to be like that.

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  6. farahnaz:

    My face is to big and flat…could you surgery my face.

  7. […] new, and even more obsessive, level. One aspect of beauty that they are hyper-focusing on is the size of your face and head. In their eyes, a smaller head represents youth and beauty. They long for a “taut, cherubic […]

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