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.


  • Refinery29 says:

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

  • ireyel says:

    Who else saw bts and got excited or freaked out?

  • Grim Coldzz says:

    It would be honestly cool to teach them about modern stuff.

  • Marley M says:

    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

  • Eileen Miranda says:

    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 🙌🏽

  • shilolove y says:

    I love makeup this made me sad.

  • STAN says:

    He is not a millennial lmao.

  • Joy Georgina says:

    I watched twice and she didn't a fully say what happened to her brother. He died?

  • Anna says:

    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

  • Jesus rocks says:

    how cool would it be if in future history north Korean revolution would be the first to be caused by makeup!

  • Jennie Kim says:

    i love her work

  • K-Game Beauty says:

    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. 😊

  • miya kirisaki says:

    I saw nct at 4:33 😅

  • Brittany Von Rissen says:

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

  • Brandy Lopez says:

    When a country as free as America begins to support a leader as controlling as North Korea ‘s 👀😨 ….

  • Miroh says:

    I just want to do something but I have no idea how

  • Ameerah Joy says:

    6:07 off topic but is that Taeyeon?

  • Ramen says:

    I was shook when I saw NCT

  • mea my says:

    I really have to learn to be grateful for what i have 😢

  • Krystal Yvez Cruz says:

    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

  • ForAllThe StupidShit says:

    So… What happened to that girl's brother?

  • Melody Lao says:

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

  • Tluang Lian says:


  • Lannie Myers says:

    Rise up North Korea. Take your home back!!!!!

  • Alexus Hidalgo says:

    Wow, this is so sad 😞

  • Alexus Hidalgo says:

    Wow, this is so sad 😞

  • Damien Green says:

    I hope to see North Korea liberated in my lifetime

  • Jewel justjewel says:

    DAMN! really? make-up this sounds like the worst

  • Jewel justjewel says:

    How can a government do this to its own people? What is the point of it All?

  • The Boulder says:

    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.

  • Bree Huchin says:

    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

  • Bree Huchin says:

    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

  • Bree Huchin says:

    That’s amazing South Korea has a open door policy

  • Lost jam of Jimin's says:

    Hitler: It destroys europe

    Kim: Destroys his own country

  • terranowa says:

    Make up is the last thing North Koreans should be worried about.

  • future jojo says:

    I seen worst tbh

  • E-THOT #69 says:

    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"

  • E-THOT #69 says:

    Only government created skincare? WHAT. THE. FUCK.?

  • Peace Happy says:

    Is it me or does the interviewer seem to have a condescending way about her?

  • Walter White says:

    I agree with North Korea

  • Zaddy Daddy says:

    Nct 😍😍😍😍😍

  • Gurpreet Bhamra says:

    Lol, stop using make up. Why would you cover your face? Are you ashamed of your natural look?

  • Almanashshi pooja chauhan says:

    Freedom is most important thing ✊

  • Summer Wilson says:

    intense rap music he is known as Kim jon un

  • Nikhil Naidu says:

    🤣hell wit kim! Where's my lipstick girl!😂

  • Paradise Soon says:

    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 😍

  • Aryan Singh says:

    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

  • Ca3 SaR says:

    Not so underground anymore now eh?

  • Shy McLean says:

    Mass killings? Wtf. Sounds like he US

  • Shy McLean says:

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

  • Shy McLean says:

    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

  • Alondra G says:

    They really put an ad in the middle of her speaking that’s disgusting 🤦🏽‍♀️🥺

  • xinnie yiii says:

    nct is bae but this lady is more 🐳

  • Shadow S says:

    Love the shady episodes , please keep them coming.

  • Phila Art says:

    Smuggle for makeup!!! What in this World?😨😰

  • panini uwu says:

    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…

  • Rumaisa Imran says:

    I… have no words… for this is so sad I can’t even explain🥺🥺🥺

  • emaan zulfiqar says:

    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 🤲

  • AirElLee says:

    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.

  • fair enuf says:

    she’s so beautiful

  • Jessica S says:

    Bruh that ad really had to be there

  • skz stays says:

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

  • Baby Doll says:

    Her brother is a true king

  • Justine Castillo says:

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

  • Kaede Fountain says:

    As me being asian and having all these products from all around asia that these guys are begging for… but when they even get to put a spec on their face….
    They go trough so much to keep it at home…
    I cant belive what they do to them just for trying to find their confidence.
    The death threats aren’t even threats
    Its a reality that they have to face with minimum amount of justice and right, for everyone going to the military fighting for the justice, priorities, family’s for our world are the best kinds protectors for these struggling fighters in north korea.. if anyone reading this from their i just want to tell you i respect you and will always hope that you will have a better future

  • S. C. says:


  • Raw LAHiabetes says:

    Please don't call Kim a fucking millennial. He's a fat pig who was given an entire country to ruin.

  • Mieka Degerness says:

    I heard other Videos about these Torture Camps that North Korea has . Shame on them . To Torture Their Own People and Treat them So Badly .
    And to Put Whole Families threw this ,It's not just 1 member of a Family .I Truly find it Very sad and Heartbreaking . They could at Least Feed Them Properly , And make sure they had Proper Covering if Cold . But also Release them after a certain length of time . . I am Not KimJon Un Judge . We all have but JUDGE to Answer Too . His Day is Coming

  • Jenni Yep a KPOP Fan says:

    South Korea: Makeup & Beauty products

    North Korea: Makeup is banned

    Me: I- ok.

  • Jenni Yep a KPOP Fan says:

    4:35 😂 out of all people I think you only found NCT.

  • Rayonna Urmom says:

    Poor women

  • happinesss2 says:

    I wish they translated the part where Danbi talks about her brother a bit better because she emphasizes that he did nothing wrong. Not just that he confessed to everything INCLUDING her smuggling and illegal acts but that he, who did nothing wrong, took responsibility for everything. so heartbreaking and brave…

  • Amber Lamps says:

    Can't take this video seriously with a trashy rap beat in the background.

  • But you see, says:

    Lmao, I just searched up if tyrannicide was halal

  • uttrakhand recipe for all says:

    What has democracy given countries, rich are richer and poor are much more poor. While police is for people they only serve the rich and powerful , case in court takes years to even start while VIP cases are taken very fast. Rich in so called democracy are left free even for running car over people. Rape is very very high , medicaL facilities are just business in so called democracy. Schools fees are so high and a big scam .

    Planet is getting killed with pollution, plastics usage ,oil ,mountains cut for minerals., Animals getting extinct.

    So just think are we prepared for freedom. We seek for

  • michelle c says:

    She did a non violent thing which was have makeup and gets bad punishments how ridiculous does that sound

  • michelle c says:

    I hope more can escape and be free they deserve freedom

  • Anneka Elliot says:

    Arrested just for a little splash of make-up and fashion that is outrageous. No individual liberty in Korea, have to look a certain way based on Asian guidelines and ideal ways.

  • fist me daddy says:

    some people be like: “LET'S BOMB NORTH KOREA!!!”
    There’s so much wrong with that statement. People like kim jong un and his little minions who support him definitely shouldn’t live, but North Korea as a country shouldn’t be bombed. North Koreans are brainwashed into thinking that their country is the only good one in the world and that their leader is God and the most important. There’s some North Koreans who are more intelligent than that and see the truth even though it’s very hard to see it when you’re born into something that tries to brainwash you. North Koreans aren’t bad people, their dictator is. We probably can’t do anything to help them, but we should at least know that those people don’t live in reasonable and acceptable conditions.

  • TyraTheTyrant World says:

    South Koreans have such nice skin lol all them 20 steps I need to start

  • TyraTheTyrant World says:

    Kim Jong un is a fat bastard he needs to be in a pit.

  • TyraTheTyrant World says:

    It brings tears to my eyes that I’m North Korea and across the world peoples BASIC human rights are being violated…

  • Olympia LLC says:

    they should be allowed doing things that are not crimes

  • Nottia Jamison says:

    So, there are people dying in concentration camps and starving in North Korea and she is worried about smuggling in makeup?! Hello!! Priorities people!

  • NCT TRASH says:

    4:36 I saw NCT 127 omg….😱😱😱😱😭😭💖💖💖💖😍😍

  • Uei Kona says:

    I feel sry for north korean people .it no better than being a caged animal

  • Guinnea Pig ASMR Guinnea Pig ASMR says:

    4; 49 K-Pop?

  • rachel nobles says:

    Wow ill keep my fingers crossed for the people there

  • Andrea van der Colff says:

    I was high-key waiting for Miss Thing to just reply in Korean when the one woman was speaking in the interview.

  • E D says:

    Aww I love Jessie! She looked so proud and happy to be a rebel against the regime.

  • E D says:

    I love that they blurred the faces of the North Korean people who defected and were rescued. That was very respectful and I’m glad non profits like that exist. Plus, that’s so amazing that South Korea has an open door policy for North Korean defectors.

  • Jesper Jakobsson says:

    Kim wtf,lösen up abit😎

  • Aesthetic Potato says:

    Human abuse is never right in no matter to put someone threw such torture is so unfair and disgusting cruel and evil that no one shows no mercy for these camps

  • God is Love says:

    Heck no 👎 I would not like to leave there

  • Yasmin Styles says:

    People be talking about rights and shit and changing the world yet there is a whole nation being tortured

  • Yasmin Styles says:

    What if everyone in the military just refused to obey Kim Jong Un and throw him off the chair? I wish these people would resist as a nation instead of just one person trying to get away

  • Kota Ka says:

    Why you do need make up?

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