Why Netflix Series Single’s Inferno Shocked The World | Racism Controversy

Single's Inferno Racism Controversy

The most recent Korean reality TV show that made a splash on Netflix was “Single’s Inferno”. If you haven’t watched it already, do yourself a favor and block out a day to smash out this binge-worthy show.

“Single’s Inferno” can be likened to that of Too Hot To Handle, Temptation Island, and Love Island. All of these reality TW shows have similar concepts: throw a bunch of good-looking strangers together and see what happens.

Like these aforementioned shows, Single’s Inferno garnered a huge following from the get-go. However, because it was launched on the global Netflix network, one could argue that it surpassed the level of popularity of most other shows!

Single’s Inferno dripped their episodes over a few weeks, and within that period, the show was all that people spoke about. From beautiful Jia’s outfits to So-Yeon’s fit and healthy body, no one thing was left un-discussed.

Unfortunately, this meant that all of the dialogue spoken was also scrutinized in lengthy detail, including the very apparent white-washing comments of a few of the contestants early on.

The world lauded this series when it first dropped for its refreshing take on the reality romance drama, but that did not stop more and more people from expressing their aghast at the seemingly innocent white-wash comments as the show went on. It seems that the sad truth behind Korean beauty standards can no longer be hidden behind cheery K-pop idols and magical K-dramas storylines.

Let’s delve a little more into what happened.

What Is Single’s Inferno?

For those who haven’t seen this reality show, the concept is quite simple. Eight contestants (four women, four men) are placed on a deserted island together for a short period. During this time, they form friendships and relationships and must complete tasks and compete in competitions to win prizes.

As with most of these shows, after a few days of spending 24/7 together, tensions will rise, people will relax their facade and certain truths will come out.

Whilst previous shows relied heavily on the sexual tensions and drama between their contestants, Single’s Inferno was praised for its innocent yet still highly entertaining portrayal of the contestants.

Single’s Inferno Controversy

Single's Inferno Racism Controversy

During the first two episodes, we’re introduced to the cast members of Single’s Inferno. Like most romance reality TV shows, the contestants all fall under the umbrella of what is considered attractive in the country that they are shooting.

As for Single’s Inferno, we witness some stunning slim-bodied, fresh-faced, cute, and sexy women enter the island. As for the men, they’re all tall, fairly toned yet slim, and a few have baby faces that the Korean public tends to adore.

The contestants each take turns coming down the stairs to sit around a fire pit. As more and more contestants make their way down, contestants who have already been revealed will make comments on their first impression of the new person.

Shin Ji-Yeon is the contestant unwittingly at the center of the controversy. When she is revealed, a certain male contestant comments: “She seemed so white and pure. That’s my first impression of her”.

Single's Inferno Racism Controversy

Later on, another male contestant shares that she was his type, mentioning that “I like people who have light skin.”

Of course, when western viewers saw this, they were quick to express their anger and disappointment, with many taking to social media to blast the comments and take issue with Korean beauty standards in general.

Beauty Standards in Korea

Jennie Blackpink
Jennie (Blackpink)

It’s been a long-standing issue that the beauty standards in Korea are unachievable and even dangerous. From shows like Single’s Inferno, we can see that being slim and white is the basis of what’s considered beautiful; however, the expectations are set much higher than what foreigners can truly understand.

Features that are considered ‘beautiful’ in Korea include being slim, having a small face, double eyelids, a V-shaped jaw, straight eyebrows, flawless skin, and big, innocent-looking eyes.

If you’re a fan of Korean drama, you may have come across some seemingly unrealistic high school bullying scenes featuring poor, unattractive students and beautiful, rich, and snobby students.

It might seem far-fetched for many viewers, but being bullied for looking below the standard of Korean beauty is a surreal thing that happens in schools and colleges in Korea. Many parents will even instill it in their children to stay slim, look after their weight, and use makeup at a young age.

Plastic surgery is not as big a deal in Korea as around the world, and children and teenagers may even be pressured to undergo plastic surgery to change their looks to fit the standard.

One thing that was mentioned in Single’s Inferno was how ‘white’ Shin Ji-Yeon was, and how they believed this reflected her purity. White skin-washing is prevalent in Korea, as it is believed having white and pale skin meant that the individual was pure, innocent, soft-spoken, and feminine – all traits that are seen as ‘desirable’ in Korean women.

Read More: Why Koreans Look So Young?

Past K-Pop Controversies

There have been instances in the past where Korean artists have either many colorist comments offhandedly and have been called out by the public, or they’ve been subject to scrutiny by the public for not meeting the standards of Korean beauty.

For example, Seolhyun of AOA has been the subject of discussion many times for her brilliant singing and dancing talent, flourishing acting career, but criticised for… her darker skin tone.

Seolhyun AOA
Seolhyun of AOA

Across many public forums, Korean netizens will discuss how her beauty is hindered by her dark skin and how she’d be more beautiful if she whitened her skin. She has addressed these criticisms head-on, stating that she simply can’t please everybody.

Hyorin of disbanded K-pop group Sistar was another idol in the limelight whose skin was often a topic of discussion. During one entertainment show appearance where she sat between two other guests, she prompted headlines such as “Hyorin’s Skin Color, More Shocking Next to Sunye’s Skin Color”.


In a separate incident whilst appearing as a special guest on SBS Power FM’s Young Street, DJ K.Will commented “You’re getting darker by the day. Don’t you want to go back to being lighter?”.

Korean beauty standards are no joke, but it appears in this day and age that many people are raising the issue and taking a stand against the unrealistic levels of beauty and the pressure that is placed on Korean society. The white skin-washing comments on Single’s Inferno and the global outrage it caused is the perfect example.

The goal of being white and slim is still very much the ideal in Korea. However, public figures such as Lee Hyori, Hyorin, and Seolhyun of AOA are choosing to embrace their golden skin tones and this ultimately encourages the public to do so as well.

People such as So-Yeon of Single’s Inferno are breaking the mold by being loud and proud of their athletic and toned bodies and tanned skin, and are a breath of fresh air for those navigating their way around Korean beauty standards.

Have you watched Single’s Inferno? If so, what did you think of these comments made by the contestants? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the section below!

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.