Author: Young-ok Baek
416 pages | 210*145mm
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|>>>This book is written in Korean.|
About This Book
Many women might labor on the treadmill or starve themselves to live up to the image of a beautiful, thin, fit woman with glowing skin and bright white teeth that flash in street ads and television commercials.
In order not to be left behind, girls are going on crash diets to lose those extra pounds.
But the mental picture that the ideal female figure conjures up is formed by society and if women fail to resemble any of these images, they are often regarded as a loser at least in this image-conscious society.
What does a diet mean for women and why do they go on them? "Queen of Diet," a new novel written by Baek Young-ok, a renowned chick lit author, delves into the dark side of diets and women's fanatical obsession with the slim bodies.
Jeong Yeon-du is a 28-year-old cook working in a fancy restaurant in Seoul. One day, she is dumped by her boyfriend of three years. After the breakup, she nurses her broken heart by binge eating and gains a lot of weight, nearing 100 kilograms.
Her close friend, In-gyeong, who works as a scriptwriter at a broadcasting company, asks her to appear in a newly-launching TV reality program, "Queen of Diet."
But Yeon-du doesn't want to go on a diet because she thinks the diet runs counter to her career calling, which is to make delicious food for customers and also to taste them.
Yeon-du helplessly accepts In-gyeong's proposal to take part in the program to revenge the former boyfriend. The program is a big deal. The winner who loses the most pounds in the healthiest way will take home 100 million won in prize money. Among 3,000 applicants, 14 participants, including Yeon-du, are chosen as contestants.
Weighing from 74.3 kilograms to 142 kilograms, the participants have diverse reasons to lose weight and win the competition.
They are supposed to stay in a residence hotel in Seoul for three months under the tight control of closed circuit cameras and individual trainers, and after every session a loser is selected by team members, who is removed from the contest.
In the hotel, all the contestants panic amid the cutthroat competition, revealing their greedy and evil desires to trample down others.
Finally, Choi Dan-bi wins the competition, but later is found to be a transgender and is disqualified and instead, Yeon-du becomes the final winner.
Although Yeon-du achieves her goal by losing more than 40 kilograms over three months and becomes a household name celebrity, she begins to obsess about her slim body and gradually loses her appetite to fix her weight at only 41 kilograms.
She gets depression as she eats food and then vomits. She develops anorexia and loses her sense of taste and suffers from partial loss of memory. Yeon-du not only changes her external appearance but also ruins her soul and mental identity. She becomes less talkative and isn't happy anymore when she makes meals for friends and customers.
Also, Yeon-du and other participants have to endure the aftermath of the program. Their private lives are ruined as the ugly and fat images of some participants are circulated on the Internet.
"Although the ugly and fat women lose weight and become beautiful, if they are not born to be glamorous, they feel guilty … It is the 2009 version of an open witch hunt," the book states.
The story is full of the psychological details on why the participants go on a diet and what haunts them. The book observes that psychological disorders in which people starve themselves to lose weight and become pencil thin can be disastrous to their physical and mental health.
The book shows how most dieters force themselves to become the unrealistic figures in order to be admired by all.
The novel takes the reality program as an extreme case that defines obesity as a cause for social discrimination, and a physical handicap, but also shows the social prejudice against women who are forced to follow the social standards of beauty. The story is also mixed with glamorous cuisine, love, pets and fashion subjects.
"I was 74 kilograms at the age of 19, 65 kilograms at 20, 42 kilograms at 21 after the breakup, 61 kilograms at 23 and 48 kilograms at 24. If you look carefully at the changes in women's weights, they have more stories than the high school records. Women's weights are not just figures. This book is not just about fat girls but about the strong obsession with being slim," the author says in her forward to the book.
The writer said that women diet not to be healthy but to be skinny. "Apparently, dieting is the most serious disease for modern women," she said.
--Chung Ah-young (www.koreatimes.co.kr)
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