Decoding the Beauty Standards: Review of 'My ID Is Gangnam Beauty'

My ID Is Gangnam Beauty

While "My ID Is Gangnam Beauty" is not among my favorite dramas, I have watched it several times. There's something about this story that always draws me in.

The drama doesn't have an extravagant plot, stunning twists, or unique characters; it unfolds in a university setting and revolves around everyday life. But it's much more than that; it's subtly profound.

Every time I watch it, I discover something new to appreciate. Now, after multiple viewings, I believe I've gathered enough elements to write a comprehensive review.


What "My ID Is Gangnam Beauty" aboout?

The drama primarily revolves around Kang Mi-rae, a first-year university student who underwent plastic surgery on her face to avoid further harassment. University should be a new beginning for her, with a new face, and hopefully, new opportunities and friendships. But it also brings new challenges. While the focus is on Mi-rae, the stories of the characters around her are explored based on their roles in her life.

The second protagonist is Do Kyung-seok, also a first-year student and Mi-rae's high school classmate. Quickly becoming the most popular guy among the freshmen for his straightforward and solitary nature, university is not a fresh start for him, but he opts for a drastic change after some revelations during the drama. As a result, he undergoes significant growth.

The third character with substantial screen time is Hyun Soo-ah, Mi-rae and Kyung-seok's classmate. She is the prettiest girl in the group and one of the most popular. Always smiling and well-loved, her true character is gradually revealed as the episodes progress.

"My ID Is Gangnam Beauty," set during the first year of university, addresses the everyday issues of first-year students, especially those deeply rooted in society. The drama portrays how beauty, imposed standards on women, appearance-based harassment, and casual sexism wreak havoc in people's lives. Some of these elements are subtle, but many are presented overtly, leaving viewers unable to ignore the raised issues.

MY IMPRESSIONS OF "My ID Is Gangnam Beauty"

There's much to discuss and analyze. In 16 episodes, the drama tackles various situations and themes, focusing on the growth of the main characters. I've noted several observations about the series, and there's even more to discuss.

Before delving into the main analysis, I want to specifically mention trigger warnings. "My ID Is Gangnam Beauty" addresses serious issues and doesn't sugarcoat them. If you are sensitive to any of these themes, be cautious: appearance-based harassment, eating disorders, fatphobia, suicide attempt, domestic violence, sexual harassment, and gaslighting.


The main goal of "My ID Is Gangnam Beauty" is to portray the many dark aspects of beauty standards imposed on girls and women. While many of them are depicted through Mi-rae, as she is the protagonist, secondary characters show some aspects that don't apply to Mi-rae. All of this comes together in the final episodes, emphasizing the message.

Mi-rae had a very difficult childhood because she was considered "ugly." Her peers harassed her throughout her school life, and she had no one to defend her. She was made to feel unworthy of everything and was excluded from common childhood experiences. The torture escalated to the point where she attempted suicide.

Children are not born with prejudices; they learn them. Appearance-based prejudices are so widespread that children quickly absorb them. Everything is more intense in childhood as well. Mi-rae missed out on several childhood experiences because of her "ugliness," and this had multiple consequences. When she is accepted and appreciated in the freshman orientation, she cries with happiness, as this had never happened to her before.

Despite all she has been through, Mi-rae assesses women based on their appearance when she meets them for the first time. Society teaches us to measure people based on certain factors, and we all do it to some extent. Mi-rae has to recognize this habit and consciously unlearn it over time.

The way she evaluates faces highlights how specific and rigid beauty standards are: things we cannot naturally control, such as face shape or double eyelids.

After Mi-rae undergoes plastic surgery to lead a normal life—not to be extremely beautiful or popular, but to be normal—she is labeled as a "type of girl." People often make comments about her as if she were nothing more than her surgeries. This common thinking causes her a series of very different problems.

The drama highlights the various ways women are shamelessly objectified. It's not enough to be beautiful and sexy; they are expected to be humble, sweet, kind, submissive (to men), and intelligent, but not too much. Men make casual comments about a woman's weight and eating habits as if they were talking about the weather and "suggest" to women to be a certain way, directly or indirectly.

Many men want beautiful women who stand out and do not accept proposals from others, but only their own (even if they themselves don't meet any standard). They don't want a simple yes; they want the girl to feel flattered that they asked her out, even if she receives 10 proposals a day. Some men believe they have the "right" to "own" and "look at" attractive women.

I really liked how "My ID Is Gangnam Beauty" showed how women are treated as objects or trophies in various scenarios. Women are not diminished in a single clear way, and malicious intentions are often not noticeable at first.

In addition to showing the effects on women who are not conventionally considered attractive, the drama showed how attractive women are negatively affected by the standards (even though they seem to be winning). I had not seen this perspective before, so it was interesting.

Hyun Soo-ah is a great example. She tries to meet all the requirements of "a good-looking woman" and sees other women as competition. She has internalized prejudices to the point where she has harmed other women and made several wrong decisions.

The drama shows how beauty holds power, and society's beauty standards can make or break a woman's life. Beauty is literally a commodity.

Considering that beauty standards are very high in Korea, I applaud this drama for nuancedly deconstructing its impact, making it easy to understand. The country has industries that thrive on insecurities caused by these standards, so creating a drama like this is a step in the right direction.

However, the execution was not perfect, and the show presented several contradictions. The way scenes were shot gave the impression that the drama was promoting the same standards it intended to criticize.

The main point was how it pretended that norms did not exist for men and, in fact, promoted them for women. Kyung-seok's main feature is his attractive appearance rather than any aspect of his personality. He is put on a pedestal for his looks, and many of his offenses are ignored or considered charming.

Kyung-seok is a really good character with different issues and growth, but he has been reduced to "a pretty face" so many times that I hated it. Other men are often compared to him without emphasizing how bad it is.

Although the concept was well executed, "My ID Is Gangnam Beauty" is not without flaws. However, it is a step forward, and I hope future dramas address these issues better.


I will delve into each of the main characters later, so here is a general opinion about the main and secondary characters.

Despite having a good basic concept, there is a significant problem with the drama: the two main characters are not very interesting to watch.

It's easy to identify with Kang Mi-rae, but she doesn't capture attention on screen. I found myself paying more attention to other characters when they shared the screen with her. She is shy and awkward most of the time. This wouldn't be bad if her face showed varied expressions and was enjoyable to watch. She doesn't show many emotions and often has a neutral expression.

I'm not sure if this is due to the acting or how the character is written (I lean towards the latter), but I found it hard to care about her beyond what she represents in the story. I liked her story and her growth, but I didn't like her.

Kyung-seok is predominantly expressionless in the drama. Being expressionless and solitary is part of his personality because when he smiles, even a little, it means a lot. Throughout the series, he usually has a serious face, and this doesn't change when he's nervous or thoughtful.

Usually, shows pair characters so that their energies complement each other on screen. One shows less emotion, and the other shows more. Since this drama pairs two characters who are not emotional enough, many scenes become dull. Several of their romantic scenes were also flat. My feelings would have been ten times more intense if there had been more emotion on screen.

Mi-rae fully embraced her role and became more effusive towards the end, showing that they are a good couple and only needed to get there, but still, sometimes it wasn't as interesting to watch them on screen.

Fortunately, the secondary characters made up for the shortcomings of the protagonists. I loved seeing almost all the secondary characters on screen. They played their roles very well.

My favorite characters were:

  • Hyun-jung, Mi-rae's best friend. We don't see her much (and one of her storylines is interrupted without resolution), but I loved every time she appeared on screen. She's short, cute, and energetic. I loved her energy and how she defended Mi-rae.
  • Kyung-seok's mother is an icon. Her grace, style, and how she treats the people in her life are exceptional. I adore her, and I would love to meet her in real life.
  • Yoo Eun, the first-year class representative. It was the first time I saw Park Yoo-na in a role, and I became a fan. I loved her style, how she took care of her classmates, and how she stood up for her friends. I especially loved her role with Soo-ah in the last episodes. She's the friend everyone needs.


Mi-rae and Kyung-seok have a relationship that grows slowly. Although Kyung-seok is clearly in love with her from the beginning, they don't fall madly in love or take immediate steps towards each other. They come together in situations and gradually form bonds. I really liked how they took care of each other before seeing each other in a romantic light.

The path to their happy ending is not easy either. They started on the wrong foot several times and had to clarify things by communicating honestly. They shared their weaknesses and consciously worked to overcome them and be together properly. All of this strengthened their relationship.

Since it takes a long time for something to happen, when they finally start dating and become a couple, it's incredibly charming. They have truly wonderful moments, especially due to Kyung-seok's confidence and Mi-rae's shyness and awkwardness.

Kyung-seok is unwavering in his support and defense of Mi-rae, something she often needs. In turn, Mi-rae helps him have better relationships with the people in his life. They are part of each other's growth, and it was lovely to see.


Some opinions that don't fit into the previous categories:

  • The friendship between Mi-rae and Hyun-jung was so pure and lovely. Their mutual love shone through the screen. They had fun together and supported each other in everything. I really liked their relationship.
  • I loved the emphasis on perfumes. The drama underscores that scent does not depend on appearance and is distinct from traditional "beauty," but it can instill confidence and leave a lasting impression.
  • Kyung-seok's relationships with his mother and sister were heartwarming. Kyung-seok is the best brother to Kyung-hee and learns to mend his relationship with his mother, and I loved seeing all of this.

The love triangle between Kyung-seok, Mi-rae, and Woo-yeong seemed unnecessary, except for one thing (I'll talk about it in the spoiler section). Mi-rae was clearly meant to be with Kyung-seok, so the love triangle never seemed important to me. Woo-yeong is technically the fourth main character in the drama (after the two protagonists and Soo-ah), but we never get to know his background story or learn more about him. To me, he was like any other secondary character. It was great to see how Kyung-seok and Woo-yeong bonded. They liked the same girl and had some competition, but once they became roommates, they also formed bonds between them and became unlikely friends. The pacing of the drama was not consistent. It was too slow in some parts and too fast in the last two episodes. Some things were given too much time on screen. It could have been better, as it seemed like too many things were crammed into the last episodes because they were running out of time.

My ID Is Gangnam Beauty Trailer

Main Characters:

Kang Mi-Rae: Played by Im Soo-hyang, Kang Mi-rae is the series's main star. She is shy, awkward, and timid due to facing school bullying. Im Soo-hyang portrays her character excellently, with Mi-rae's posture and walk reflecting her personality.

Mi-rae's growth throughout the drama is beautiful. Witnessing her accept love, consciously abandon her bad habits (like judging people's appearances), care for others, and find her new place in the world is fulfilling. She faces new challenges after her plastic surgeries, and her character matures through them.

At the series's start, Mi-rae is naive about people due to never experiencing "good" interactions. She hasn't learned from people pretending to be kind but having malicious intentions. However, in college, she encounters two-faced individuals and learns to judge them.

Do Kyung-Seok: Do Kyung-seok is the literal campus heartthrob, portrayed by Cha Eun-woo. The character is meant to be flawless - handsome, intelligent, and skilled in combat. He confronts people for their nonsense, caring little for friendships and preferring solitude. However, he clearly falls in love with Mi-rae over time and desires to be the person by her side.

As the son of a cunning politician, he has been estranged from his mother for years. His heart has hardened due to family issues. After a sudden move, he becomes roommates with Yeong Woo-yeong. It was interesting to see him learn to be an independent adult and worry about money, which he hadn't done before. Finally, he can make decisions for himself and connect with the people he cares about.

Initially, Kyung-seok had many edges, and being with Mi-rae and having other good people in his life softened him. Seeing him smile and enjoy life was gratifying.

Hyun Soo-Ah: Hyun Soo-ah is an unpleasant character but also the most complex. She possesses perfect natural beauty and a personality to match. Initially kind and friendly to everyone, she seemingly never gains weight, and her intelligence is subtle. However, as the drama unfolds, we realize these traits are a well-crafted facade.

Soo-ah's character and arc are fascinating. Despite disliking her, she became my favorite due to her complexity. She was also a master of manipulation, knowing how to manipulate people to get what she wanted. Jo Woo-ri portrayed her character so well that she even received some criticism for the drama.

I loved how her layers were gradually peeled away until we saw her true personality at the end. I would have preferred a more consistent pace so that resolutions like hers wouldn't feel rushed at the end.

Discussion (Contains Spoilers)

Quick points with spoilers:

  • The scene where Woo-yeong tells Mi-rae that he initially liked her for her looks and "what's wrong with being attracted to someone's appearance" was well done. It highlights how most people view attraction and why it's unacceptable for Mi-rae: considering everything she's been through, she doesn't want anyone to like her for her face, as she wouldn't have liked herself without plastic surgery. She doesn't want her features to be considered in any way.
  • Soo-ah's dialogue about hating people who undergo plastic surgery because it increases the number of beautiful faces and diminishes the value of genuinely attractive people was very interesting. It pointed out how beauty is commodified. Most people wouldn't think or say what she did, but for someone who wants to be the only standout (like Soo-ah), that's everything.
  • Kyung-seok's mother's story was also interesting. She thought she had the world in her hands due to her beauty, but the "good" man she met just wanted to keep her by his side and stay at home. Essentially, he wanted to cage her. It didn't matter that she had talent in her field because, according to him, a woman's place is at home with children. Her story addressed how, even if a woman seemingly has all the potential, she is still objectified and expected to submit to a man's will. Beauty can also be a curse.
  • The episode about the university festival was fantastic, where men wanted women to serve because they would "attract more customers" and wear short skirts. While the guys praised Mi-rae, Soo-ah, and Ji-hyo, they also embarrassed Tae-hee and ridiculed Yoon-byul. This demonstrated how commonplace misogyny is and how men don't care if women feel uncomfortable. Even the "good guys" silently stepped aside without addressing problematic issues.


It wasn't a perfectly crafted drama, but it was intriguing. At the very least, the individual growth of the main characters was great to watch.

I recommend this drama if you're in the mood for something complex and are okay with a slow pace. The drama can be incredibly slow at times, but it's worth it. If you enjoy character analysis and situations without action scenes, this is a good choice.

Although I've watched it several times, I wouldn't consider it a comfort series. I don't think most viewers would watch it again. It's not entertaining enough for multiple viewings unless you want something to play in the background while doing other things.

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