August 06, 2013 12:42
South Korean goods and pop culture are spreading across North Korea through black markets. Defectors say South Korean goods sold in North Korean markets range from DVDs and clothes to food to like vegetables, fruit, fish and meat.
"Many young North Koreans who come across South Korean goods on the black market prefer them to Chinese-made ones although they are pricier," one defector said. "It's especially difficult to find South Korean cosmetics and shampoo because the demand is so high."
The tags are destroyed before the goods go on sale because selling and buying South Korean goods is banned. Some merchants take the brand tag off and keep it in a pocket to show to customers later to prove the provenance.
Another defector said, "The demand for South Korean clothes is too great for the supply to be met, so some seamstresses hunt down South Korean fashion magazines at great risk to copy the styles."
Because South Korean goods sell at higher prices than Chinese-made goods, some traders cheat, removing the tag of a Chinese brand and advertising it as South Korean. They also sell fake South Korean goods like Choco Pie, coffee and instant cup noodles.
South Korean refrigerators, TVs, washing machines, computers, mobile phones, digital cameras, Kimchi refrigerators, tires, watches, rice cookers, electric blankets and boilers are all popular.
Recently, there has been an emergence of a makeup artist who can do bridal makeup and hairdos the South Korean way. One North Korean defector said, "In North Korea, light makeup for a natural look and extended eyelashes are popular these days."
An increasing number of North Koreans watch South Korean TV soaps, films, entertainment shows, K-pop shows, and sitcoms, and young people are mimicking Psy's "Gangnam Style" horse-riding dance or other pop groups' moves.
The regime is going to great pains to stem the wave, with authorities reportedly setting up a special task force to crack down on South Korean fashion, makeup, and even slang.
One defector said, "If the police see you wearing blue jeans, they will cut them with scissors on the spot, and skinny jeans, boot-cut jeans, and shorts can never be worn publicly."
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