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Plaster surgery boom in North Korea

Posted October. 14, 2013 05:24,   


As lookism rapidly spreads in North Korea, some North Koreans use even “drug water,” a by-product of drug purification, to make their skin look better. It is said that the wide distribution of South Korean dramas combined with the public appearance of Ri Sol Ju, the wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un who drew much attention for her glamorous fashion, has encouraged North Korean women to care more about their appearance.

According to the defected North Korean women that Dong-A Ilbo recently met in Dandong, China, it is popular among high class North Korean women to apply the liquid by-product from drug purification. One North Korean defector said, “Though it is not too difficult to get the water thanks to many drug manufacturers (in North Korea), the water is so expensive that ordinary people cannot even think of buying it,” adding, “There are rumors that some officials’ wives were addicted to drug and sold off everything (to buy drug).” Another defector said, “The drug water is secretly distributed through skin care shops and believed to make your skin as fair and soft as babies’ once applied.”

Ordinary people who cannot afford this follow a home remedy of applying some dark ointment on skin for whitening because laser peeling clinics are very rare and if any too expensive in North Korea. The home remedy is to apply the ointment thoroughly on the face, leave it for 15 days and then wash it off.

Double eyelid surgery is also very common in North Korea. While in Pyongyang, certified doctors perform surgery in hospitals, in local cities, unlicensed “doctors” do surgery from door to door. Prices come in an extensive range, and doctors known for good surgical skills receive at least 50 dollars (54,000 won) for each case. One North Korean defector said, “I had surgery twice since the first surgery was not satisfactory. Some people intentionally leave surgical scars just to show off.” This woman could afford the surgery cost because her family having fled to China earlier sent her money for several years. Nose and jaw surgery, which is popular nowadays in South Korea, is not yet widespread due to the lack of necessary medical equipment.

North Korean women’s increasing interest in appearance is largely due to South Korean dramas. One defected woman from North Korea said, “Many North Koreans watch South Korean dramas and admire the looks of actresses in there.” On top of this, Ri Sol Ju’s extravagant westernized fashion frequently broadcast on TV has also played a role. She added, “Young women dress neatly when going out even if they have to starve home.”

As the North Korean society gets more open like this, young men and women became bolder in their way to express affection. According to sources, in local cities, bars run under borrowed names of institutions are on the rise. And restaurants where a bed and a bathtub for two people are hidden behind for guests are mushrooming. Even high school students can go to these places at the entrance fee of only about 50,000 North Korean won (8,000 won). The fee is a bit higher for adults.