This master's thesis examines the experiences and meaning-making processes of international K-beauty tourists to South Korea, and explores the influence of Korean popular culture on their travel decisions and experience. The thesis applied in-depth interviews as a qualitative research method to gather insights from eleven K-beauty enthusiasts from across the world that have visited Korea. Through thematic analysis, the findings reveal a complex interplay between Korean popular culture, lifestyle and tourism. The results demonstrate that Korean popular culture, particularly celebrities of K-pop and K-drama, plays a significant role in motivating individuals to travel to South Korea for K-beauty experiences. Moreover, the paper uncovers the concept of beauty hyperreality in South Korea, characterised by seemingly infinite beauty options, and an association with Korean popular culture. K-beauty tourism in South Korea provides unique opportunities for tourists to engage in an encounter with beauty that extends beyond the practical experience of K-beauty, encompassing elements of lifestyle, cultural exploration and popular culture tourism. Aside from that, valuable findings were furthermore gathered regarding the impact of K-beauty tourism on tourists’ perception on self care and personal expression through beauty practices. The findings, therefore, shed light on the ways in which K-beauty tourism combines elements of popular culture, lifestyle, and tourism. Understanding the influence of Hallyu and aspirational experience associated with K-beauty is a testimony to the country's soft power.

Nicky van Es
Tourism, Culture & Society
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Mai Ly Gorbach. (2023, August). Experiencing K-beauty. Tourism, Culture & Society. Retrieved from