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Do Korean Schools Allow Makeup?

Jason Park
Published by: Jason Park
Last updated:

The school determines everything a student wears, this includes the school uniforms along with hair coloring, hairstyles and makeup. Most schools do not allow any amount of makeup, some are so strict they don’t even allow lip balm unless prescribed to wear it by a doctor.

Schools in South Korea are a little different than in the United States. The best way you could make a comparison is like that of a private Catholic School or Military School.

They have strict rules for behavior along with a rigid class/study schedule and require students to wear a uniform.

School Rules in Regards to Makeup – Present and Past

There has been an increase in K-Pop culture in recent decades. This encourages young girls to want to wear things like blush, lipstick, eyeshadow and mascara to school. And to keep up with the times, some educational institutions are allowing girls to wear some of it in class.

About 20 years ago, wearing makeup was a matter for corporal punishment, expulsion or some other swift reprimand. But within the last five to 10 years, many of these rules have loosened up; especially in regards to hairstyles and hair coloring.

Current Makeup Practices among Korean Students

In the last five years, more high-school aged girls are getting away with wearing some bits of makeup. But, of course, this depends invariably on the school, its policies and their rules.

Some schools feature a stricter adherence to wearing no makeup and others are quite loose about it.

With some schools laxing on the rules, a wave of domestic disharmony occurs between teenage girls and their families. Many traditional Koreans see adolescent cosmetics and fawning over beauty as deviant behavior.

Makeup is all good and well in its place; but it’s only for adult women. Younger generations are breaking from this idea and it tends to cause clashes at home.

Do Korean Schools Have Prom?

Korean Schools do not host anything like prom or homecoming for high school students. There aren’t any dances where boys and girls move together in a romantic way. This is due to the fact that almost all schools forbid students to date each other.

As a matter of fact, dating a classmate is grounds for suspension or even expulsion. So, they won’t do anything to encourage or tempt romantic relationships. Some schools go so far as to create separate classrooms for boys and girls.

Schoolmates might hang out somewhere else and celebrate, but even in this situation they cannot date. However, there are performances where boys and girls take part in the same choreography. There are other activities too like joining up with various types of clubs or sports.

Can You Skip a Grade in South Korea?

Students can skip a grade in South Korea, but this is rare and only for students that show exceptional ability. This includes not only mastering the material of their grade but displaying clear proficiency to grasp the curriculum of the next.

A school’s administering personnel, like a principal, grants such an allowance. But, there are some social ramifications with this; where students of the same age feel intimidated and older students look down on it. Although this usually isn’t a major problem, it does happen.

What Is the Average Korean High School Schedule?

In South Korea, the average high school adolescent may go to school 16 hours or more per day. Their morning begins at 6:00 am and are in class by 7:00 am. They often start with English listening and word practice for an hour.

Then by 8 am, they attend science, math, Korean language, other languages, social studies, history and/or moral ethics. At 1:00 pm they get an hour lunch break followed by three more hours of classes. From 4:00 pm to 5:35 pm, the student will work on a quiz.

Yaja: Yajatam

Afterwards, students in both middle and high schools begin a period known as “night self-study,” called yaja in Korean. This is where teachers expect students to remain at school and commit to intense study, homework and other assignments. Generally, they’ll spend an hour watching TV lectures and then have dinner.

During yajatam “night self-learning time,” they go into a quiet classroom to study. It’s here where a friend who’s stronger in a particular subject can help them out and vice versa.

By 9:00 pm the student returns home and studies some more until 12:30 am. They then go to sleep, wake up and do the whole schedule over again.

It used to be that they also had to attend school on Saturdays. But a law passed in 2000 stopped this practice yet there is an expectation for their voluntary participation in yaja. That said, yaja is optional for middle school students.

How Many Hours Do Korean Students Study?

On average, Korean students between the ages of 15 and 24 years old engage in nearly eight hours of studying every day. This translates to just over 49 hours per week, nearly 200 hours each month and shy of 2,500 hours annually. So, they spend much of their waking life either in school or studying.

Intense Amounts of Study 

This is 15 hours longer than their peers in other schools participating in the Organization Economic Cooperation and Development, where they study about five hours per day or nearly 33 hours per week.

For instance Finnish and Swedish teens dedicate about six hours of study per week. Japanese students study for about five and a half hours. Germany and the US have their adolescents studying about 5 hours a day.

Lack of Academic Prowess

Unfortunately this doesn’t translate to better academic accomplishments. The drain and strain of the demanding schedule takes away from their ability to retain and recall the material.

It deprives them of sleep, exercise and social activities. Their brains aren’t left alone long enough to be able to absorb and ingrain the material they learn throughout the course of a day.

In 2003, a study evaluated the habits between Finnish students and their Korean counterparts with regards to math.

The study found that Finnish teens were much better at math. The comes regardless of the fact that Finnish students study half as much and attend school for a much shorter time each day.


The schedule, rules, and guidelines for high school students in Korea is much more involved, strict and stringent than most other places.

Girls cannot wear makeup and schools insist, with punishment, that all students wear the provided uniform. Very rarely will they allow street clothes or other casual wear.

They also don’t have school dances like proms or homecoming because dating or any romantic overtures between students are a punishable offense. So, they do not encourage this kind of behavior by having a romantic situation, like prom.

Their schedule is so rigid that they attend school for about 16 hours a day with nearly half of that spent studying.

Although Korean students are famous for attending one of the world’s most excellent educational systems, they don’t always come out on top in regards to performance and academic achievement.

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    About The Author

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    Jason Park

    Jason has been living in Seoul for over 4 years, and during that time, he has experienced many of the city's hidden stores. He loves to write about his experiences and share them with others. Jason has been quoted and referenced by different major media companies like Mashed, Distractify, ThePrint and TastingTable. In his free time, he likes to watch Korean dramas and learn more about Korean culture.

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