Defying old labels

Beauty obsession: Even a hundred years ago, foreigners noticed that Korean people were very sensitive to appearances, which is still true today with the proliferation of cosmetic surgery centres in the country, says the writer. – AFP

IN the late 19th and early 20th century, foreign adventurers, reporters and missionaries visited Joseon, which is now Korea. During their stay in the “Land of the Morning Calm,” they wrote some penetrating accounts describing pre-modern Korea.

Some of them were favourable remarks, and others were somewhat negative observations, though amusing. For example, they unanimously praised the Korean people’s exquisite handcrafts such as pottery, and their superb skills at archery. They also recorded what they had observed as salient characteristics of the Korean people and their society at that time.

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