GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 221

RESEARCH INSTITUTE FOR NORTH KOREAN SOCIETY
http://www.goodfriends.or.kr/eng
No. 221 September 2008

A Woman Supporting Husband’s Education Is Criticized by Residents
Simple Cosmetic Surgery Is Popular Among Women with Food Shortage Problem
Cosmetic Surgery Price of Chungjin City
Reason for Having Cosmetic Surgery, “It is convenient not wearing make-up anymore”
A Woman Married To an Honored Military Man Runs Away From Home



A Woman Supporting Husband’s Education Is Criticized by Residents
Son Mi-hee (age 31) who lives in Yeomju County of North Pyongan Province is the real head of her household. She takes financial responsibility for her family and at the same time she supports her husband’s education. He is studying at Sariwon College of agriculture. Ms. Son brings salt for making Gimchi from the saltern of Yeomju County to Sinuiju by a handcart and sells it at 250 NK won per kg. During the off-season for farmers, she does everything she can do to make money and sends all this money to her husband. Because of the expensive education fee, she suffers with her household and she does not give enough food to her two daughters. Some neighbors praise her as an “excellent woman which is rare in this day and age”. But, others criticize her saying, “I don’t understand why she is so enthusiastic about supporting her husband’s education while her children are suffering from starvation.”

Simple Cosmetic Surgery Is Popular Among Women with Food Shortage Problem
Even when people are suffering from food shortage problem, plastic surgery becomes popular more and more. Ten years ago, plastic surgery was only possible in the big hospital of Pyongyang city. Historically, plastic surgery was only performed for burn victims, those who have severe scars on the face, or for a crooked nose or mouth. However, nowadays plastic surgery is done more for beauty reasons. Cosmetic surgery is gaining more popularity all over the country. Generally, the boom of cosmetic surgery started since 1997-98 as women who ran away to China acrossing the river got caught and came back.

However, these cosmetic procedures can’t really be called plastic surgery because usually there is no medical specialist and not many women get procedure done at the hospital. They do not have money and what they usually do is no more than tattooing eyebrow, lip lines or making double lids. Women with poor financial condition get this done by individual performers. Even young girls who just graduated junior high school goes around farm village and do the performance on the face with simple beauty appliances because it can make money. Not to mention, hospitals are getting involved more in cosmetic surgeries. Hospitals work on more complicated operations such as easing wrinkles and removing freckles, in addition to the simple jobs on eyebrow, lips and eyelid.

Cosmetic Surgery Price of Chungjin City
At a province hospital in Chungjin city, North Hamgyong Province, chemical remedy to get rid of wrinkles or freckles costs about 20,000 to 30,000 NK won (approx. US $6 to $9). Each tattooing of eyebrows and lip lines cost about five thousands NK won, and the price is five to eight thousands NK won for making double eyelids. However, it is cheaper if an individual performs the jobs, tattooing for thirty five hundreds NK won (approximately US $1) and double lids for five thousands NK won. As you get closer to rural area than cities, the price gets more expensive because the performers charge their traveling expenses. It costs four thousands NK won for tattooing and six thousands NK won for making double lids. As the number of the performers is increasing, the price of beauty appliances that make line for lips and eyebrow also goes up. Until 2005, those appliances were worth about thirty to fifty thousands NK won but now is it worth of range from one hundreds thousands even up to two hundreds thousands one in NK won.

Reason for Having Cosmetic Surgery, “It is convenient not wearing make-up anymore”
Females of Chungjin City, North Hamgyong Province are very interested in getting plastic surgery such as tattooing eyebrow, lip lines and making double lids whether they are young or 40-50 years old. Besides, the interests of rural women are the same as the interests of city women. Kang Jeong-ran (age 24) who is going around farms and performing medical treatments said, “It is most popular among farm women. Because they often miss washing faces during the busy farming season, having tattoos on eyebrow and lips allows to save time from wearing make up and to save money from buying cosmetics. Thus, income had been good until last year. It was hard to find maidens who have not had plastic surgeries even with regulation of the party. However, it is very difficult in this year. It is very rare to find customers because there are many people who do not even have porridge. I hope food shortage problem is resolved quickly. If food problem is eased, I think I can make profits again since there are still many women having interests in plastic surgery.”

A Woman Married To an Honored Military Man Runs Away From Home
Song Young-ae (age 27) who is a directive officer of Youth Union of Sariwon City in North Hwanghae Province was married to Choi Young-seok (age 32), whose lower body was paralyzed two years ago. The bride recently ran away from home. When they were married two years ago, they were blessed by the City Party officials and neighborhood. They were even on TV and became very famous. Before Ms. Song left home, she struggled from her bad financial situation saying, “The government is not supplying food properly even for an honored soldier who became disabled while working for the country. As much as it is difficult for normal person, the disabled is having more difficulty. There is no other way left but dying.”

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