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

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.

Reader Comments

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

  2. Hearing what she struggled through as, “guilty”, I.. I’m balling imagining what happened to her brother 💔💔💔 I can’t imagine losing my brother… 😭😭😭💔

  3. We dont know what we are putting on our skin no more and the fals ingredients and then smuggling it through trafficking makeup amd torture makes you wonder the world is going to be bad nothing natural is left no more even the humans are becoming robot like with all fake chemicals going into their bodys amd paying for thr price of beauty to onoy find out whats really in them i brought some products from yesstyle and i have mentioned mecury as their products arw imported from korea to hong kong im worried as im using this stuff amd the stuff inside says its not harmful. Thank you for the video and we should appreciate what we are lucky with and have. To see this makes mr want to be sick. Thank you intresting video

  4. It’s awful to deny a person their identity. I hope that the North Korean people will be able to rise up eventually.

  5. I have a friend since childhood. She is half Korean. Her uncle was taken during the Korean War for no other reason than he was male so they forced him into a labor camp. My friends mom has had a suitcase packed so she can go to meet him if they ever release him. She has been tormented by promises of his release since the 50's. N K is truly a living Hades.

  6. This made me realise how blessed I am. Half the time I used to complain about how beauty products don’t release in my country but not anymore. There’s nothing I wish for more than North Korea liberation ❤️

  7. You want to express yourself, go write a poem or create something. You don't have to paint your face and put a mask on that's not really you. And don't pretend like you give a fuck about people in other countries. You do your best to ignore the homeless people in your own neighborhood on cold nights. your extreme narcissism is transperent to everyone but you.

  8. So its like the holocaust all over again. Can you imagine having to eat rats omg. I feel sorry for people there . Can't they leave ?

  9. I wish that the us government or some other countries do something..this is like concentration camp back in hitler days!! This shouldn’t be happening, it’s 2019..

  10. In North Korea just because great great great grandpa stole, his great great great grandson has to serve…

    that country is whack, but omg Asian people cry so beautiful and I’m over here crying looking like donatella over spilled milk

  11. And you think we have it hard as Muslim women. Beauty is such a thing and in 2019 I don't know why you have to be remote controlled about it.

  12. Shame on authorities and international organizations that claim to globally protect human rights and meanwhile remain still on such a humilating existing regime living its worst – a country living in utopian bubble a North Korea, whose citizens have yet to survive in. Where civil inquisition and torture over innocent people are legitimated to threaten and control reaction of society though the fear of death. Shall we only wait when the state leader will end up naturally, and we will accept it as much as it may continue? The state power of one dictator does not worth lifes of 25mln citizens, never did. Based on terrifying experiences from the past century, how can we accept yet today the legitimacy of such a State? The school education was not your strong. Shame on humanity, disgusting.

  13. I’m just think, if the entire country went against Kim jun un, won’t he die? So the lose? Do the soldiers also want to help him?


  15. Yes, they should fallow and copy westerners. The lives of westerners is nothing but joy and dancing on the streets made of gold with birds singing with you as you go and jump around the city buying make up, cars and clothes until the sun goes down. Ahahahahaha In the US liberals are "accidentally" killing people who disagrees with them even though all they offer is just violence.😆

  16. I hate this so much. I’ve been trying to think of a way I can help or contribute to North Koreans. People are executed everyday in North Korea for things as simple as watching a movie. People wake up in fear for their lives everyday. This isn’t how the world should work. You’ve been given the gift of life, you should not constantly be terrified. It’s all bullshit. Fuck Kim jon un

  17. I’m waiting for the day when people have the liberty to do what they choose. We are so blessed to have the rights and liberty we do😢💗I pray for those in camps that did really nothing wrong 🙌🏽

  18. my mom’s grandma escaped from north korea with her sister. they left their family behind and we don’t know if they’re alive or dead, but our family was rich and so they were oppressed

  19. I’m still trying to mentally process how Women, and Beauty products are A Threat.. more the less a Posable one. I respect These women how Are standing up for what they believed/believe in.. and i had no idea that even in Korea, that they are being oppressed like this. I am so glad to have found this channel and have learned from it so much. 😊

  20. Let me get this straight, people are risking torture and imprisonment to get people makeup??? Oh boy 🤦

  21. WTH. North Korean you do not want make up? Who are you to forbid that. You don’t have any human right for it. Make up should available to everyone. Don’t control your people make up, internet usage, cellphone usage and hair style

  22. It’s not just the makeup, or the skin whitening, it’s what it represents: freedom, choice, noncomformity, etc.

  23. I'm sorry but I hate this 'anything for the makeup/YAS QUEEN/power of makeup and self expression y'all!!1' angle, it's very silly. People in North Korea have bigger problems than makeup.

  24. South Korea is pretty smart with trying to introduce k beauty to the rest of the world I love k beauty make up and especially how it differs from US makeup it’s pretty cool

  25. So sad how north and South Korea differ but not in a good way ?!!! So sad to see how women can’t even wear makeup

  26. I'm seriously crying, it's horrible how these people are treated in an everyday life and in "non existent" camps. I hope I get to see the day that North Korea is free"

  27. Poor woman
    I’m so sorry for these ladies but let me tell you something
    All woman in North Korea even if you don’t have makeup you are so beautiful 😍

  28. If only the peoples around the world knew what freedom is there would be no rapes, no murderers, no stealing, no drugs, no harsh behavior, no smuggling, no kidnapping, no thefts, no stealing etc

  29. Sounds like Hispanics wanting to come to america also werid Americans have sympathy for Koreans but not actual South American and Mexican people

  30. I wonder what these people will do when they find out about the real world and find out what other races of people look like

  31. Can we just like kill Kim jong I’m already? I know damn well the U.S could team up with ally countries to take down North Korea and its brainwashed army.
    Finally set the victims free…

  32. I think this is way much information leaked in this interview how things are being carried out in NK. I just pray that may Allah bless these people and may they get the fruit of their struggles. ameen sum ameen 🤲

  33. I wish everyone had the sympathy to understand how terrible this is and that no one should be literally tortured for trying to be oneself. I hope the day comes when North Korea is no longer Kim Jong Un's reign.

  34. God put us on Earth to live,to be free, not to be a slave of another human. This is just disgusting and monsterlike

  35. If north korea's this bad then I would rather live in a forest with a tent, anyone wanna come with me and live?

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