Last year in kindergarten, Yang Hye-ji developed her morning routine. Uniform? Check. Homework? Check.
"Makeup makes me look pretty," the 7-year-old said on her second visit to the ShuShu & Sassy beauty spa in Seoul. She was wrapped in a child-size pink robe and wearing a bunny hairband. Her lips got a swipe of pink gloss.
In South Korea, brands like The Face Shop saw cosmetics sales among teenagers aged 13 to 19 double in 2014, while a Korean consumer rights group reported in 2016 that 42.7 per cent of primary-school-aged girls surveyed had used cosmetics before, according to news site Quartz.
Exacting beauty norms also put enormous pressure on South Korean women, making the country one of the world's centers for plastic surgery. And increasingly, the beauty industry is looking at younger and younger girls.
How much a society should value appearance, whether messages about beauty crowd out other aspirations for young girls, and whether it's right to add even more pressure to an already stress-packed childhood of long school hours and make-or-break exams.
I watch my mom and I follow her. I am growing up today.”
From K-pop divas to K-beauty cosmetics, the market capitalizing on women's objectification has become a hyper-saturated 'red ocean' in South Korea. The market sees a 'blue ocean' for expansion in younger customers, ready to instigate and monetize their insecurities about their appearance.