Why do Koreans not wear glasses?



Glasses have become a common sight worldwide, helping people with visual impairments to see better and improve their daily lives. However, if you visit South Korea, you might be surprised to find that wearing glasses is relatively uncommon among the locals. Unlike many other countries where glasses are a common accessory, Koreans seem to have a different perspective on eyewear. This article aims to delve into the reasons behind this intriguing phenomenon, exploring cultural, historical, and societal factors that influence Koreans' relationship with glasses.

The Perception of Beauty and Fashion in Korea

South Korea, known for its booming beauty and fashion industry, places great emphasis on appearance. Koreans have a deep appreciation for beauty and strive to maintain a youthful and flawless look. This cultural aspect plays a crucial role in their attitudes towards wearing glasses. Many Koreans perceive glasses as a hindrance to their appearance, associating them with a less desirable or nerdy look. In a society where slim and slender figures, flawless skin, and well-defined features are revered, glasses can undermine these ideals. As a result, Koreans often opt for contact lenses or corrective eye surgeries to correct their vision while maintaining an aesthetically pleasing image.

Moreover, the media plays a significant role in shaping beauty standards in Korea. Korean dramas and K-pop idols often sport the image of a perfect complexion and captivating gaze without the aid of glasses. These influential figures are idolized and emulated by the younger generation, reinforcing the notion that glasses are not fashionable or attractive. As a result, many Korean youths strive to fit this beauty mold and opt for alternatives to glasses.

Historical Factors: A Symbol of Intellectual or Social Status?

To truly understand the aversion towards glasses in Korea, it is essential to consider the historical context. In ancient times, glasses were not commonly worn, as they were considered a luxury item accessible only to a select few. Those who were fortunate enough to own glasses were seen as intellectuals or individuals of higher social status. However, the majority of the population did not have access to such resources, resulting in a limited association between Koreans and glasses.

Furthermore, during the Japanese occupation of Korea in the early 20th century, glasses were often associated with the Japanese colonial regime. This negative association further deepened Koreans' reluctance to embrace glasses as a fashion statement or an essential item for vision correction. The historical context, combined with cultural perceptions of beauty, continues to influence Koreans' attitudes towards wearing glasses today.

The Influence of Confucian Values

Confucianism, deeply ingrained in Korean society, places an emphasis on hierarchy, discipline, and maintaining harmony within relationships. These values also extend to physical appearances, where modesty, humility, and blending in are highly valued. Glasses, which can be seen as attention-grabbing, might contradict these values, leading Koreans to avoid wearing them as a way to conform to societal norms.

In addition, there is a prevalent belief in Korea that wearing glasses can negatively impact one's chances of success in academic or professional endeavors. This viewpoint stems from the notion that glasses imply poor eyesight, potentially limiting individuals' opportunities in competitive environments. Thus, some Koreans might avoid wearing glasses to boost their chances of success and conform to the societal expectations associated with achievements and career prospects.

Accessibility to Alternatives

Another significant factor contributing to Koreans' low prevalence of wearing glasses lies in the accessibility to other vision correction methods. South Korea boasts advanced healthcare facilities and has emerged as a global leader in eye surgeries, particularly laser eye surgery. With such advancements readily available, many Koreans opt for corrective procedures rather than relying on glasses or contact lenses. This accessibility to alternative solutions has contributed to the decline in glasses usage.

Moreover, contact lenses have gained immense popularity in Korea. They offer flexibility, convenience, and the ability to alter eye colors, making them a preferred choice for those who require vision correction without compromising their appearance. The widespread use of contact lenses among Koreans further diminishes the need and desire for wearing glasses.


In conclusion, the scarcity of glasses among Koreans can be attributed to a confluence of cultural, historical, and societal factors. The perception of beauty and fashion, deeply rooted historical associations, Confucian values, and accessibility to alternative vision correction methods have all played a role in shaping Koreans' attitudes towards wearing glasses. While glasses may not be as prevalent in South Korea compared to other countries, it is essential to remember that individual choices and preferences ultimately determine one's decision to wear glasses or not. As societal attitudes continue to evolve, it will be fascinating to observe any changes in Koreans' outlook towards eyewear in the years to come.


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