While summer has always offered an excuse to show off some skin, this season, covering up has become more fashionable than shedding clothes.
In lieu of scanty beachwear, the long-sleeved, narrow-necked rash guard has hit it big with beachgoers and celebrities both in and out of the country.
Photo shoots of Hallyu it-girls like Gain and Hani of girl group EXID posing in rash guards stormed the Internet, gaining a massive number of "likes" and topping the entertainment news section.
The rash guard is a type of waterwear that can be worn for a number of water sports, like surfing, wakeboarding and kayaking. Highly functional beach gear, it protects the wearer against sunburn and abrasion from rapid contact with water.
The sexy appeal of this athletic costume, however, is that it is still body-conscious. Made from a skin-tight, spandex fabric, the rash guard accentuates the curves of the body while maintaining a slim waistline and holding other wobbly bits in place.
The marketing team at Top Ten, a casual clothing brand, cites the changing standards of feminine body image for the stretchy sportswear's sudden boom.
"There is a growing perception that fit, healthy-looking bodies are beautiful," the company said in a press release, as opposed to the delicate frames that have traditionally been favoured in Korea.
The rash guard, though revealing very little skin, makes for a voluptuous silhouette that is at once athletic and feminine.
"Part of the rash guard's unlikely appeal stems from the athletic, carefree style it suggests," the New York Post said in a June article that elaborates on what it calls the "athleisure trend" and the attractions of a sporty, lively female image.
The rising popularity of water sports is another reason for the fad, according to Top Ten.
"More and more people are enjoying water activities, and related items are rising, in turn, as a consumer trend."
One side effect of the rash guard's popularity, however, has been an overall deterioration in the products' quality.
Local papers reported that because so many producers have hastily jumped on the rash guard bandwagon, there are many products in the market that do not meet standards for functionality, becoming discolored after a few dips in the ocean or tearing upon contact with rough waves.