ⓕ font-size

  • -2
  • -1
  • 0
  • +1
  • +2

MBC anchor urges diversity in female beauty norms

  • Facebook share button
  • Twitter share button
  • Kakao share button
  • Mail share button
  • Link share button
MBC presenter Lim Hyun-ju, right, appears on
MBC presenter Lim Hyun-ju, right, appears on "Live Today Morning," a news program, in this April 12, 2018, file photo. Courtesy of MBC

By Park Ji-won

Is she an attention-seeker or a trailblazer?

Internet users who happen to see the name of TV news anchor Lim Hyun-ju are tempted to ask this question.

Lim took the center stage on the internet as her name surfaces frequently because of her rule-breaking demeanor.

About two years ago, Lim, then an MBC news anchor for "Live Today Morning," sparked a debate over beauty norms for women by wearing glasses on a live TV news program, a breakthrough for a woman even though male broadcasters frequently wore them. Of course, there used to be Yoo Ae-ri, a female anchor from KBS who wore glasses during a news show in 2017, but she was an exception because she was substituting for a colleague during a strike, and was about to retire from the company. So Lim's move was rare for a female anchor, making headlines and prompting her to be interviewed by several news outlets from overseas, she said.

A news anchor has long been considered a plum job for female college graduates, maybe because of the image that they have it all ― beauty and intelligence.

Lim and other female anchors with imperfect vision have been encouraged to wear contact lenses with full make-up and knee-length skirts during news programs to meet "professional standards" for women. They are supposed to look clean, tidy and intelligent.

Lim tried to break that norm.

Not only has she been appearing on broadcasts wearing glasses from time to time, she surprised viewers by admitting that she appeared on a reality show without wearing a bra in February and went on some shows in pantsuits and neckties. Her "courage" to appear in the program without a bra was part of an MBC program titled "Series M," where it held a "No Bra Day" challenge. But her choice ignited a debate on whether it is appropriate for a women to go braless in public, while receiving both positive and negative comments from netizens.

She answered some questions on Instagram Monday, saying she seeks diversity and freedom in her norm-breaking appearances.

"Some ask me why I wear makeup and high heels, even though I didn't make any official announcement that I am not going to wear them. I think people asking this particular question have their own prejudices and a certain image of me…. I am going to wear whatever I want to be free and seek diversity," Lim wrote on Instagram Monday.

"I am simply saying an individual's opinion and choice should be respected. Even though I didn't inconvenience them, some still criticized me (for wearing a skirt) by making a leap that I gave up trying to look pretty."

It appears that Lim's activity is a reflection of the changes in Korean society where the "escape the corset" movement is surfacing among young generations amid rising pressures imposed on women due to high beauty standards.

In recent years, young women mainly in their 20s have been participating in the movement by cutting their hair short and going without makeup. The moves aim to defy societal expectations on women's appearances. Needless to say, South Korean media and entertainment industry promote women to have luxuriant long hair and pale skin and to wear heavy makeup and form-fitting clothes.

Experts say the fact that Lim has been at the center of the debate shows a reflection of the male-dominant society to objectify the female body.

"The fact that Lim's no-bra challenge has become a debate shows that the female body is one of the important subjects in this society," Yunkim Ji-yeong, an assistant professor at the Institute of Body and Culture at Konkuk University, said during a radio interview with YTN when asked about the debate over Lim's braless appearance. "In addition to female celebrities, women's bodies are being objectified and judged from top to toe….. It is a male-oriented way of thinking to allow specific parts of the female body to be seen in the public while some are forbidden… The notion that not wearing a bra is sensual shows that the female body is widely considered to exist for men's pleasure."

Some also pointed out Lim is taking eye-catching steps to be recognized as a TV persona amid a decline in viewership ratings of TV and radio network companies in recent years.

Lee So-jeong, KBS reporter Yonhap
Lee So-jeong, KBS reporter Yonhap

Sign of changes

In line with the trend, other announcers including Kang Ji-young on cable channel JTBC have been wearing glasses and more TV reporters and anchors wear pantsuits instead of skirts.

Even in November, Lee So-jeong, KBS reporter, took a lead role in the primetime "News9," which was a first for Korea's national public broadcasters. She broke the longtime format of Korean television news broadcasts, in which a comparably middle-aged older male anchor leads with the major news while a younger female announcer sits next to him delivering comparably lighter developments following him.

She mainly wears pantsuits instead of skirts while leading the whole news program from the beginning to end.

Park Ji-won


Top 10 Stories

go top LETTER