From North Korean defector to YouTube star

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From North Korean defector to YouTube star



21-year-old Kang Na-ra fled to South Korea from the North in 2014 and is now a beauty and cosmetics social media influencer in Seoul. She said while the South Korean products still triumph, North Korean products are increasingly jumping on the K-beauty bandwagon. Michelle Hennessy reports.


21-year-old Kang Na-Ra is a beauty influencer in South Korea. But the products she's reviewing here can't be bought where she lives in Seoul.

That's because these beauty items are from North Korea. Kang is originally from the North she's a defector who fled just five years ago.

Reuters brought her the North Korean cosmetics, which can also be bought in Russia and China. Here she's filming a comparison between products from the communist North, and the beauty-obsessed South.

Kang Na-ra, a North Korean defector who is now a beauty YouTuber, puts on her makeup with North Korean cosmetic products, in Seoul, South Korea, June 11, 2019. Picture taken on June 11, 2019. Reuters

For a reclusive country that tightly regulates its citizens' appearance, the results might be surprising:


1-YEAR-OLD NORTH KOREAN DEFECTOR AND SOUTH KOREAN BEAUTY YOUTUBER, KANG NA-RA, SAYING:

"It's way better than what I used to use when I was in North Korea. It doesn't suffer by comparison with South Korea's products - but it doesn't smell as good. I think they'd should use better fragrances in their products."

It's more than just an interesting cultural comparison.

Kim Jong Un appears to be actively promoting home-grown beauty products. In an effort to boost self-reliance as international sanctions deepen.

North Korean cosmetic products (front line) are seen on a dressing table in Seoul, South Korea, June 11, 2019. Picture taken on June 11, 2019. Reuters

Earlier this year, state TV showed a woman replacing Chanel products with North Korean cosmetics instead. Chanel told Reuters it doesn't export to the North. So they were likely fake.


While the products are thought to be going down well at home and in Russia, its industry is marred by quality issues and constraints in getting the right ingredients from overseas.

Kim Jong Un's wife and this North Korean answer to K-pop are trend setters back home. And the state encourages its beauty-conscious middle class to follow their style.

But not sway outside of the country's beauty guidelines. (Reuters)





21-year-old Kang Na-ra fled to South Korea from the North in 2014 and is now a beauty and cosmetics social media influencer in Seoul. She said while the South Korean products still triumph, North Korean products are increasingly jumping on the K-beauty bandwagon. Michelle Hennessy reports.


21-year-old Kang Na-Ra is a beauty influencer in South Korea. But the products she's reviewing here can't be bought where she lives in Seoul.

That's because these beauty items are from North Korea. Kang is originally from the North she's a defector who fled just five years ago.

Reuters brought her the North Korean cosmetics, which can also be bought in Russia and China. Here she's filming a comparison between products from the communist North, and the beauty-obsessed South.

Kang Na-ra, a North Korean defector who is now a beauty YouTuber, puts on her makeup with North Korean cosmetic products, in Seoul, South Korea, June 11, 2019. Picture taken on June 11, 2019. Reuters

For a reclusive country that tightly regulates its citizens' appearance, the results might be surprising:


1-YEAR-OLD NORTH KOREAN DEFECTOR AND SOUTH KOREAN BEAUTY YOUTUBER, KANG NA-RA, SAYING:

"It's way better than what I used to use when I was in North Korea. It doesn't suffer by comparison with South Korea's products - but it doesn't smell as good. I think they'd should use better fragrances in their products."

It's more than just an interesting cultural comparison.

Kim Jong Un appears to be actively promoting home-grown beauty products. In an effort to boost self-reliance as international sanctions deepen.

North Korean cosmetic products (front line) are seen on a dressing table in Seoul, South Korea, June 11, 2019. Picture taken on June 11, 2019. Reuters

Earlier this year, state TV showed a woman replacing Chanel products with North Korean cosmetics instead. Chanel told Reuters it doesn't export to the North. So they were likely fake.


While the products are thought to be going down well at home and in Russia, its industry is marred by quality issues and constraints in getting the right ingredients from overseas.

Kim Jong Un's wife and this North Korean answer to K-pop are trend setters back home. And the state encourages its beauty-conscious middle class to follow their style.

But not sway outside of the country's beauty guidelines. (Reuters)



Choi Won-suk wschoi@koreatimes.co.kr


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