Elise Hu on South Korean Beauty Culture and the Quest to Be “Flawless”

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It’s no secret that American beauty culture, driven by Hollywood and social media, preys on our insecurities and promotes unattainable standards around the world. But another country is giving the U.S. a run for its money. In her new book Flawless, journalist Elise Hu explores the global rise and influence of K-beauty, or South Korean beauty culture, now a $10 billion industry. Hu, NPR’s former Seoul Bureau chief, reveals how that city became the plastic surgery capital of the world. And she examines how other countries, including the U.S., are now embracing South Korean beauty products and practices like double cleansing and snail mucus face masks. We’ll talk with Hu about how K-beauty standards both empower and constrain women, and about what it means to be “beautiful” in the 21st century.


Elise Hu, NPR host-at-large and the host of TED Talks Daily; former Seoul bureau chief, NPR. Author of the new book "Flawless: Lessons in Looks and Culture from the K-Beauty Capital"