Tiffany May

c.2019 New York Times News Service

HONG KONG — Doe-eyed with delicate features. A sharp jawline and willowy figure. Fair skin so clear it almost glows.

With many South Korean pop idols fitting that description in their sleekly produced music videos, their mass appeal has many of the country’s young people wanting to look just like them.

But in an effort to tone down their influence in a beauty-obsessed country where plastic surgery is rampant, South Korea’s government is trying to limit the stars’ presence on television, saying they look too much alike.

“Are all the singers on television music programs twins?” the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family wrote about the stars of K-pop, as their music is known, in broadcast guidelines released this month, according to The Korea Times<em>.</em>

“They seriously look identical,” it said, adding that many pop idol groups’ musical styles were “just as limited as their appearances.”

The guidelines drew such criticism from fans that on Tuesday the ministry apologized for “causing unnecessary confusion,” and said that some of the recommendations would be removed or reviewed, the news agency Agence France-Presse reported.

Some compared the guidelines to the censorship imposed during the country’s military dictatorship during the latter half of the 20th century.

An online petition, calling for the ministry to be dissolved, read, “The ministry has dared to point out female idols for being too pretty, wearing the same clothes and being skinny,” according to the newspaper Korea Joongang Daily.

Ha Tae-kyung, a politician from an opposition party, compared the guidelines — which the gender ministry said applied to both female and male performers — to restrictions on hair and skirt lengths during the dictatorship.

“There are no objective standards to people’s looks,” he wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday.

It wasn’t the first time Ha had defended influential K-pop band members. Last year, he called for them to be exempt from the county’s military draft, since top classical musicians are given exemptions.

The guidelines were intended to make television a more benevolent experience. Ministry officials said on Monday that viewers worried that television shows “exacerbate inequalities and gender stereotypes, rather than fixing it,” the Korea Joongang Daily reported.

In the guidelines, officials suggested that shows avoid featuring performers “whose appearances are exceedingly similar” in the same program.

One in three South Korean women have undergone cosmetic surgery between the ages of 19 and 29, a Gallup Korea poll has found — a trend that mirrors the narrow beauty standards epitomized by K-pop stars.

Some South Koreans have openly celebrated having cosmetic surgery, documenting their physical transformations as a rite of passage.

In a pair of videos called “Getting Pretty Before” and “Getting Pretty After,” members of the K-pop group SixBomb giddily went for manicures between appointments at a plastic surgeon, where their faces were prodded and poked.

“Getting Pretty After” showed them wearing pink bodysuits in an operating room, prancing out afterward with altered faces.