The Terrifying Danger Of Wearing Makeup In North Korea | Shady | Refinery29

I knew their heart-wrenching stories long
before I flew halfway around the world. But it didn’t make them any easier to hear. These young smugglers are part of an underground
resistance in North Korea, pushing the limits against one of the most oppressive regimes
on the planet. Risking everything for an unexpected tool
for freedom: Make-up. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,
better known as North Korea, was born after World War II when the once united Korean peninsula
was split. You probably know it best for its eccentric millennial dictator, Kim Jong Un, his arsenal
of nuclear weapons, and his tit-for-tat with international leaders. In North Korea, access to the Internet and
cell phones is heavily restricted, and few are allowed to leave. The longest running communist dynasty has
survived by ruling with an iron fist. But there’s a new wave of resistance brewing. Only it might not look how you think. Seoul, South Korea is known for street after
street of beauty boutiques, carrying the latest South Korean products known as K-Beauty. In less than a decade, it’s exploded into
a more than 13 billion dollar industry. The sheer amount of choices and information
can be exhilarating, especially for 27 year old Jessie Kim. She and I, same neutral colors? Yes. We’re both neutral. Oh my god! So good! Jessie grew up in North Korea, under oppressive
rule. She’s part of a new generation that’s
pushing boundaries in an unexpected way. Strict rules around appearance are used by
the North Korean regime as a form of control. Visual confirmation of whether or not you
fall in line. A state issued guide outlines specific hairstyles
and lengths approved by the Supreme Leader. Salon menus show the cuts that are allowed. Appearances are so regulated that any deviations
can lead to public shaming and even arrest. But what’s strictly controlled by the regime
is still finding its way in. Danbi Kim started a business smuggling basic
goods into North Korea at just fourteen years old. But she quickly realized that beauty and fashion
items were the most in demand. What kind of items were most requested? Many North Koreans barely know what South Korean K-Beauty products are even called. But they know they want them. You were getting hundreds of orders from all
over North Korea? The demand for South Korean products is high. But how do they even know that they exist? The best way to understand K-beauty is within
the Korean Wave. The Korean Wave. A tsunami of popular South Korean culture. Boy bands, and girl bands. K-dramas and films. And the latest wave: K-beauty. So as you see here, we have four different
kinds of masks. These microtip pads have a needle here. Wait, there’s needles on these sheet masks? Iconic South Korean
brand Dr. Jart+ is at the forefront of K-Beauty. It’s like a lab down here. Its progress is part of a larger experiment. We’ve got some support with our global marketing
activities, such as a pop up store project in the U.S. and in China. So the government awarded Dr. Jart+ funding
so it can go out into the world and do pop-up stores and spread the word even further
internationally. Yeah. It’s part of a government strategy to export Korean culture and build international
influence. It’s called In international relations, if we talk about
soft power, that’s usually in contrast to what we call hard power. So when we talk about hard power, we normally
think of something like, you know, bombs, guns, military might. When we talk about soft power, we’re trying
to use the power of attraction to get the counterpart to do what we would think is desirable
behavior. So if hard power is forcing people to like
you, soft power is getting them to like you. Yeah. This soft power strategy has been vital to
South Korea becoming an economic powerhouse by bringing in tens of billions of dollars. The Korean Wave has reached countries all
over the world, including its adversarial neighbor. K-Dramas smuggled into North Korea through
flash drives have spread like wildfire, and so have its beauty trends. We’ve heard from North Koreans how they
began to wonder, “Why can’t we have these things ourselves?” Liberty in North Korea is a non-profit that
helps North Koreans defect, and tracks the information they bring out of the country
with them. It’s this sort of shared disobedience you
could say. In a country that’s as restrictive as North
Korea, this is a really interesting and important signal. You were a rebel. Yeah. Jessie was able to avoid being arrested. But Danbi paid a heavy price. One night, North Korean officials came to
Danbi’s home and arrested her entire family. They accused her older brother of being a
spy, a common umbrella charge for going against the regime. She was just 17. Punishments for rule breakers in North Korea
are horrifying. The state has a secret network of camps and detention centers that it denies exists,
despite detailed satellite images and verified testimonies collected by the UN. Drawings from prison camp survivors detail
the conditions they endured. Eating rats to survive. Barbaric forms of torture. And even mass executions. It’s estimated that around 200,000 North
Koreans are imprisoned in camps today. Danbi’s decision to leave wasn’t an easy
one. Defecting from North Korea is a difficult
journey. South Korea has an open door policy but there’s
no easy way to get there. The demilitarized zone between the two countries
makes it nearly impossible to cross at the border. Instead, most take their chances through China, and then on to Mongolia or
Southeast Asia, hoping to make it to a country that won’t send them back. Liberty in North Korea’s footage gives us
a rare view into the harrowing journey. You may face the risk of being shot in the
back as you’re trying to get to the other side. Or caught midway through and being dragged
all the way back in the act of trying to get across. And there’s no time to think, sometimes
they don’t even eat, because they’re so nervous and scared. That’s about a 3,000 mile journey, longer
than the distance between New York and LA. Once they get to Southeast Asia and our team
greets them, it’s always a mix of emotions. Some people are just so exhausted, they just
pass out. Others are just so overjoyed because this
is the first time that they are truly free. Of the more than 25 million people living
in North Korea, it’s estimated that about 1,000
safely escape each year. Hannah and her team are involved every step
of the way. They’ve seen what matters most to defectors
who make it to safety. The basics are the most important, but every
so often women will ask for BB cream, or maybe they’ll ask for hair dye or face masks. Some people might look at this very small
step of what you do, which is putting together these kits, and say, “Why would someone from North Korea need a face mask?” What would your response to that be? I can only imagine how difficult that journey is. And so to come through that, even if there’s
something small we can provide, like a face mask, what’s so wrong about wanting to really
look their best as they’re really starting a new life? It’s a reminder that K-beauty’s impact
goes beyond face value. It’s a tool of comfort, resistance, and
especially international influence. I’m about to learn just how far that influence
goes when it comes to North Korea. Just last year, Kim Jong Un declared that
North Korea was getting into the global luxury cosmetics game to make, in his words, the
world’s best cosmetics. Is K-beauty a threat to North Korea? I think so. The South Korean K-beauty is a threat to the
King Jong Un regime. society. Professor Nam is one of the few people in
the world who’s studying North Korean beauty products. He offered to show me what NK beauty looks
like. I wouldn’t know that any of this is from
North Korea if I wasn’t standing in your office looking at products that you basically
can’t find in most of the world. Trying North Korean, state-created beauty
products for the first time. It doesn’t smell like a beauty product. It doesn’t have that floral-y, fragrance-y
smell that beauty products will have. And it smells more like it’s an edible product. For the countries of North and South Korea,
beauty has become a new weapon in the race for power. For its people, it’s a driver of change. These small changes that are happening are
being driven by North Korean people. This is really where there’s hope. The reality is beauty isn’t going to free
North Korea. But curiosity about self-expression creates
curiosity about the outside world. It’s empowering the younger generations
to imagine a new kind of North Korea. Thanks for watching Refinery29. For more videos like this, click here. And to subscribe, click here.

100 thoughts on “The Terrifying Danger Of Wearing Makeup In North Korea | Shady | Refinery29”

  1. We believe that all beauty products should be readily available to who ever wants them. What do you believe?

  2. Contrast that with our makeup addiction and body shaming and twisted beauty standards in the west…and the fact that nobody in NK gives a shit about appearance is kind of refreshing. Not saying using a little makeup is bad though. They should be free to choose.

    But in a way they are kept innocent. In a way they have more time to spend with each other.

    Contrast that to us, who are getting obese, spend most of our days in front of a computer or glued to a phone and forgot how to socialize.

    It's 2 extremes.

  3. Wait iff someone wanna go to North Korea for summer and then wanna come back ARE they not gonna come Out like at the Door, or they never come back?!?!

  4. I don’t think I could trust the North Korea beauty product. I would of suspicious to what’s in it and what it will actually do to you

  5. They put their own people in concentration camps… for simple things we all do in the West… buying makeup & dying hair…that’s going against the regime? Scary times.

  6. They can’t even live they life like phones and makeup shouldn’t b an issue cuz I’m pretty sure that’s all yung be on and women should b able to expresss themselves in anyway 💯😢

  7. This is utter nonsense. It's not K beauty that is responsible but the inhuman regime. Stop trying to make brands bigger than life.

  8. Wow. The fact that you can only have your hair styled in certain state approved hairdo reminds of me that Twilight Zone episode Number 12 Looks Just Like You.

  9. video: /is about the violence in north korea and how womens smuggle makeup and got punished/

  10. How can you simplify their struggle by say they risk their lives for make-up. How stupid, thoughtless and empty head was that statement.

  11. if anyone knows any way which i cand help please tell me. an international association or somthing idk… i just want to help…

  12. Well north korean people can help themselves if they all get united and kill that dictator!!! No person should be with kim jong then and only then people will achieve freedom 😬 like they can use this idea

  13. I'm south Korean. Funny thing is that in south Korea, young women get to realize that makeup is NOT freedom, rather it restrict women's mind to seeking beauty of body and lead to spending much money on them, like corset did, forcing woman to follow unnatural beauty standards. It's quite big Feminism movement now. There is a news that recent statistic says consumption on beauty product and plastic surgery in Korea clearly decreased. Thet's why I feel little uncomfortable with how this video describes beauty product and beauty industry like liberation. sorry if my comment is irrelevant, but I think It's quite interesting. same fights for human right but such hugely different issues.

  14. In South Korea ,especially in work place,wearing makeup is kind of respect for others,I don’t like wearing makeup,so I would rather live in USA,you have so much freedom here!

  15. Us, South Koreans, have been asking them to come to South Korea because we have noticed what they have done to North Korea. But only a few of them have came, risking their lives, many have died, trying to escape, if they do escape they would be hunted down..we’ve been hiding them for the past years.

    Edit: We have sent balloons and loud-speakers, if any of you think it’s fake. We can’t go in North Korea, if we do, we aren’t allowed to escape.

  16. North Korea is one of the most terrible places to go to, you can’t have bibles, you can’t watch anything except news in North Korea, you can’t even have opinions, there’s only a few hairstyles you can have, you can’t leave, getting abused and killed is allowed if you try to escape or even ANNOY the government. North Korea is my WORST nightmare..

  17. You kno, I used to have full eyebrows & now it’s a whole different story due to aging. Anyway, I draw on my brows almost everyday; plus, I got under eye bags & darkness. I absolutely cannot leave my house without my makeup…couldn’t imagine living under those circumstances because I need some help with cosmetics🤷🏻‍♀️✌🏼

  18. no wonder why the women wanna leave that fucking country….can't blame em at all…NO MAKE UP? thats like a major item that just about evry woman uses..they have to smuggle makeup so they can feel beautiful..thats just wrong….such an oppressed might nto be as bad as the middle east but still this is just cruel treatment to women …and our corrupt bigot in chief is penpals with this fatfuck dictator along with the midget russian trump takes it up the ass from..smh..shameful..

  19. I believe we should rescue all the women and those those dont support kim and the children and then nuke the fucking country to oblivion along with kim jong fatfuck

  20. This is how strict North Korea is: your running in the hallway at school which is not allowed, but instead of a scarify warning or detention, your exacuted.

  21. why did everyone care so much about the holocaust yet the same treatment is given to innocent north koreans and not a BREATH is heard

  22. Why would yall put an ad in the middle of that woman’s testimony. a 14 minute long video and that was the part you chose out of the whole video …… wtf

  23. The North Korean government never fails to surprise me. What do those pricks achieve by starving people and making lives a living hell?

  24. It’s not just appearance, but a symbol of self-care and self-love, which are totally antithetical to the propaganda of the regime.

  25. North korea dont hope to remain alive if you have used foreign beauty brands..
    South korea dont hope for a decent job unless you had facial cosmetic surgeries..

  26. I don´t know the situation, but beauty products are under strict control in many countries, like food. For instance You can ´t import beauty products to EU from China, even from South Korea without control and permission. Reason: If You use a toxic beauty product, You can ruin Your health – so there is "no freedom" even in our Middle European democratic country in this regard, because each country (EU acts in this case as one country) sets its own standards to protect its citizens against health risks. Because of this permission process there is not the same variety of cosmetics in EU like in South Korea.

  27. The U.S needs to invade KOREA, set these people free of this bullshit. Invade KOREA, put that dictator to rest, to death just like we did with osami bin Laden.

  28. As long as the US and Allied Envolved continue to lie. North Korea will continue to be the Black Sheep of the World.

    She doesn’t realize that they were protecting her from false prophets, materialism, and he ways of the West. Family and Tradition is way more important than desires. But you have to experience no family to realize it.

  29. This reminds me of the story about Moses in the Bible. How someone powerful is ruling over innocent people. One day these people will be free, able to live their own lives, and will be able to celebrate their freedom! You all said school is prison well you take school for granted. 🤦‍♀️

  30. This is heartbreaking but I am so conflicted after finding out about the sourcing of mica for makeup from that other video

  31. I half Chinese so I know a bit about this
    My Chinese school was really strict
    You need to ether have short hair or tie your hair up so you couldn’t have hair that’s also need to have your nails cut and short. And you couldn’t even have earrings

  32. You know I never knew that it was this bad in North Korea. I feel like an awful human being for not being able to help.

  33. This world is fucked Up. I just saw a video showing CHILD LABOUR MENACE faced by kids of my native place because of Mica based beauty products and now I see here that beauty products is like SOFT POWER.

  34. South Korea kept winning over North K. while kids just kept dying in Jharkhand.

    The world is that absurd that it's not even absurd.

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