According to the report in The Associated Press, South Korean men spent $495.5 million on skincare and makeup last year. Research from Euromonitor International showed that this amount of money spent accounts for 21 percent of sales in the global market, landing South Korea in the number one spot of big spenders on men's skincare.
And according to the largest cosmetics company in South Korea, Amorepacific, that number is only expected to grow. This year, the company predicts, will garner a total sales of $885 million in men's cosmetics sales.
So how exactly do the mere 19 million men in South Korea, who according to The AP are part of a "socially conservative, male-dominated country, with a mandatory two-year military conscription for men," make up the population of the world's epicenter of men's makeup?
Over the past decade, The AP reported, men in South Korea have been under pressure to advance in their careers and romantic life so much that they've resorted to using the a popular cliché, "Appearance is power." The media has also swayed men to aspire for a better appearance, like popular advertisements stemmed from the "flower men" of 2002 led by South Korea's World Cup soccer team's Ahn Jung-hwan. Not to mention comic books from Japan featuring men with makeup made their way into South Korea after the government lifted a ban on Japanese goods.
Nowadays, men are expected to uphold their appearances, which The Associated Press reported happens in public and in front of, and encouraged by, women.
"Having a clean, neat face makes you look sophisticated and creates an image that you can handle yourself well," 24-year-old Cho Won-hyuk told The Associated Press. "Your appearance matters, so when I wear makeup on special occasions, it makes me more confident."