Protective masks are a very common everyday item in Korea. They can be bought in every supermarket, pharmacy etc. (at least before the stricter regulations due to the COVID-19 disease). Unlike here, Koreans find wearing protective masks in public and in everyday life much less unpleasant or annoying. They are just used to these masks and have been wearing them for years. Incidentally, this does not only apply to South Korea. In many Asian countries - including Japan and China - protective masks are also worn every day.
But why are protective masks normal in Asia? Sure, one of the obvious reasons is protection against diseases and especially epidemics like COVID-19. However, you will be surprised because there are many more reasons for wearing the masks there. And most of them have nothing to do with protection and health.
Here are 11 reasons why Koreans wear protective masks. They wear them...
1. To protect themselves from diseases: In Korea, it is quite common to protect yourself and others from colds and the flu by wearing protective masks. So they don't just wear the masks in the event of serious pandemics. In addition, South Korea had to go through an epidemic - MERS disease - in 2015. At that time, wearing protective masks became largely normal.
2. To protect themselves from air pollution: At certain times of the year, the amount of fine dust and yellow dust in the air increases in Korea. The fine dust is mainly blown over from neighboring China, where some cities with the most severe air pollution are located. The yellow dust comes mainly from the deserts of Mongolia and Northern China, where sandstorms stir up the sand and the wind blows the dust into Korea. At such times, the entire Korean population is advised to wear protective masks outside or even to stay indoors completely. Even on days with relatively little air pollution, Koreans still wear the mask, out of concern that the fine dust damages their health and skin.
3. To protect themselves from the cold: In winter, compared to summer, you can see more protective masks on the streets of Korea. Because some Koreans then wear them as protection against the icy winter cold. At -15 ° degrees Celsius, at least the nose stays nice and warm.
4. To look stylish: In Korea, protective face masks are available in many different designs. Even the medical protective masks are available in a wide variety of colors. But we find the greatest variety in the fabric and textile masks. These are available in all imaginable colors, designs and fits. They are an official K-Fashion accessory and often complete the outfit. The stars of the K-pop scene also wear them often. And that alone means something! Black masks have been particularly popular since last year. They fit every outfit, also suit men and give everyone a mysterious cool aura.
5. To hide their bare faces: Korean women care a lot about their bare faces. Many feel exposed when they show strangers their bare face. If they need to get out of the house quickly and have no time for make-up, they like to put on a protective mask.
6. To make their faces appear smaller: A small face is part of the beauty ideal in Korea. The smaller the face, the more proportional the whole body usually looks. A small face is often highly appreciated in models because it makes their whole body look leaner and slimmer. For women, a small face is perceived as cute and youthful. Hardly surprising to learn that Koreans use protective masks to create the illusion of a smaller face. Once half of the face is covered, the whole face automatically looks smaller.
7. To get a V-Line: Another must-have in the Korean ideal of beauty is the V-Line. This means a V-shaped chin. This face shape is perceived as particularly beautiful and elegant. That is why there are actually masks in Korea that promote the development of a V-Line through their structure and fit. Such masks are often made of a special flexible textile and are particularly tight at the bottom. Some also have a separate part that you can put around your chin.
8. To cover cosmetic surgery scars: Especially in the Gangnam district of Seoul, one should not be surprised if the masks are worn to cover wounds and scars. Gangnam is the hub of plastic surgery clinics in Seoul. Surgeries for lifting the nose, shaping the mouth or even changing the shape of the chin are quite common in Korea. Many foreigners also travel to Seoul to undergo plastic surgery at the most renowned clinics of Seoul.
9. To block odors: Many Koreans are sensitive to odors. So they wear the masks e.g. to block unpleasant smells in public transport or in big crowds.
10. To prevent travel sickness: Let's stick to the subject of smells. People prone to travel sickness often feel that the odors in cars, buses and airplanes cause travel sickness. Wearing protective masks minimized these smells and makes traveling a little more pleasant.
11. To keep their identity secret: We are not talking about this in a criminal way. We are talking about the stars of the K-Pop and K-drama scene. In order not to be recognized, many Korean stars wear protective masks as soon as they have to head out of their house in their private time.