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5 Facts About Fashion and Beauty in North Korea Prove That it’s Not Easy to be a Woman in This Country

When we hear about Korean beauty secrets, the girls come to mind themselves and high-quality cosmetics in unusual packages. But what about the other side of the border? After all, we don’t know much about how North Korean women live.

We carefully studied the stories of the girls from the DPRK. In the end, we learned about beauty in the most closed country in the world a little more.

1. North Korea has several popular cosmetic brands

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The production of cosmetics is well established and works properly. The two main factories in Pyongyang and Xinyju are considered to be the best in the country. They produce skin care products and perfumes. According to state media, the demand for such products is constantly growing, it is high-quality and available to all women in the country.

Pyongyang’s cosmetics factory is not only known in North Korea. Its management has ambitious plans: to make its own products under the brand Unhasu in demand all over the world. And something is already working out. You can already buy a cream or face mask from the DPRK in some countries.

However, the high quality of this cosmetics is denied by Dr. Sun-woo Nam, head of the Department of North Korean Studies at Korea University in Seoul. Dr. Nam, who is writing a book about cosmetics in the DPRK, has a huge collection of skin care products, including 65 whitening creams, essences and washing products. All this was delivered to him for study by one of the students.

Professor Nam notes that North Korean skin care products are of poor quality. Many of them smell too strong, too liquid or are packed into vials with poorly performing dispensers.

Such cosmetics are available to women from large cities and with high levels of wealth. Villagers and those who come from poor families cannot afford it. But on some important dates for the country. For example on Sun Day, the simplest care products like soap or skin lotion are given out for free .

2. With decorative cosmetics it’s getting worse

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The products of North Korean factories are mainly for skin and hair care. There are anti-aging creams and even special products that improve blood circulation. But to find on the shelves of stores lipstick or eyeshadow is almost impossible. The thing is that bright makeup in the country is forbidden. You can paint, but be sure to observe moderation.

Now living in South Korea, Danby Kim (name changed) says that in the language of North Koreans there are no words, which can be called decorative cosmetics. For example, lipstick is “a thing that paints lips” and blush is “what makes the cheeks red.”

3. The country has its own trend fashion

5 Facts About Fashion and Beauty in North Korea Prove That it's Not Easy to be a Woman in This Country
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Young metropolitan girls copy the style of famous pop singers, such as the group Moranbong, one of the most popular in the country. But, of course, the north Korean pop stars are very different from their colleagues from the South.

And while local self-care products are easy to get (of course, if you’re lucky enough to be born in Pyongyang), and the girls have someone to look up to in their quest to be beautiful, it doesn’t save the overall situation in North Korea.

4. There are strict standards for appearance

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We have already written about the fact that in North Korea you can not just buy blue jeans or make an unusual haircut. But there are many more restrictions. The appearance of the DPRK residents should be “strictly consistent with the way of life in the country.” Close attention is paid to:

  • hair color and their length (coloring is prohibited, and haircuts should be neat; the maximum allowable length of hair for women – just below the shoulder); Do curls are forbidden if the hair is naturally straight;
  • the presence of jewelry (there should not be too many);
  • make-up (allowed pink and brown tones, red – under the ban);
  • women’s skirts (they should not be too short).

The DPRK even published a fashion magazine, which describes exactly how to look.

5. Police patrols are always on duty on the streets of cities

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Compliance with the rules regarding the appearance of the country’s residents is strictly controlled. Police patrols are deployed through the streets of cities, and every passerby is assessed. Nara Kang, a former resident of the country, said: “Whenever I painted, the elderly people in the village called me a scoundrel. Every 10m, there were fashion police units on the street. They’ve been watching us closely.”

How girls learn about fresh trends

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Information about what fashion looks like outside the DPRK is not always available to local residents. But there is a special program “Flash for Freedom” through which about 900,000 residents of the closed country received USB carriers with South Korean movies, photos and music. Sometimes the flash drives have to be hidden in bottles from under drinks to pass to the recipients.

Beauty as a way to freedom

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Despite the fact that imported from abroad cosmetics is expensive (for one mascara from South Korea have to pay the equivalent of the cost of 2 weeks of rice), the demand for it is high.

Joo Yang, who now lives in South Korea and works as a jewelry designer, says that the evolution of her compatriots’ style is well visible. Young people watch popular TV shows in the south, and they try to look just like their heroes. According to Joo Yang, such changes are not just a superficial adherence to other people’s traditions. This is a signal that the younger generation is ready for change.

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