Billions of women wear makeup everyday. Makeup is even becoming part of men’s routines. But there is one place on earth where makeup is restricted and outright banned by the state. That unique place: North Korea. The odd thing is that just over the 38th parallel that separates the two Koreas, beauty is a big business.
South Korean beauty or Kei beauty is sweeping the whole world. It’s a big part of the Korean cultural wave with boy bands and girl bands and a new wave of film and television. These beauty trends are even reaching American shores. Korean beauty and culture are everywhere and women all of the world are taking advantage of the iconic facemasks and other Korean skincare products.
However, the demand for beauty products is also trending in an area much closer to the beauty capital of Seoul. In North Korea, beauty products are mostly banned. Hair styles are determined by the state and basic makeup products that women in the rest of the world wouldn’t want to live without are not available in North Korea. However, North Korean women are still taking advantage of these trends due to smuggling.
In this video from Refinery 29, they tell the story of one such smuggler who, at just 14 years of age, began her career supplying North Korean women with beauty products.