|▲ A member of a North Korean beauty cheering team, who seems to have had plastic surgery on her eyelids|
Plastic surgery is has quickly spread among young single women in North Korea. In Shinuiju alone, more than 60% of the women have reported having had work done.
Trader Kim Man Gil (pseudonym, 53), who trades shoes and clothes between Shinuiju and Dandong, China, said that, “North Korean young women have increasingly gotten plastic surgery on their eyes... At a glance, more than half of the young women walking in the streets have signs of plastic surgery”.
North Korea has implicitly allowed plastic surgery hospitals in Pyongyang, Chongjin and Shinuiju to complete simple double-eyelid surgeries and tattooed eyebrows. Officially, the North Korean government does not permit plastic surgery, yet defectors said that in big cities plastic surgery is commonly performed in secret.
Regarding women who work at North Korean tourist resorts, the North Korean government actively encourages plastic surgery; a fact many visitors to North Korea have already attested to.
Mr. Kim said that, “Starting in 2004, plastic surgery by non-licensed operators, not doctors, has been in vogue”. He added that, "Although the government does not allow plastic surgery, because of its extensive popularity, the government is reluctant to crack down on it".
Although plastic surgery is a generally expensive undertaking, women of all economic and social strata are finding the means to get "fixed". Kim noted, “Because many people in Shinuiju work at places related to Foreign Currency Earning departments and are thus well-off, they have enough money to get plastic surgery... Yet even women who do not have enough money sell food until they are able to pay for it”.
Kim mentioned that, “Meanwhile, in counties or districts away from Shinuiju, most people have so little money that one in three children in a family cannot attend school. The gulf between rich and poor is really wide and serious”.
He said that, “Plastic surgery in the North is limited to relatively simple double-eyelid surgery and tattooing of eyebrows. As for Shinuiju, 60% of single women without double eyelids seem to have gotten plastic surgery”. Subsequently he noted, “North Korean women and Chinese women are all the same in that they want to be pretty”.
A common side-effect of North Korean double-eyelid surgery is that after an operation the eyes come to look artificial, due to the relative thickness of the lower eyelids.
Plastic surgery on one eye cost 500 won ($0.17) in 2004, yet now is quoted to be around 1,500 won ($0.50) in 2006. Both eyes cost 3,000 won, or 1 US dollar. As for eyebrow tattooing, one eyebrow cost 200 won ($0.06) in 2004, and now has risen to 500 won.
In order to confirm the numbers of young women getting plastic surgery in Shinuiju, we contacted a North Korean insider. During the conversation, our contact asked us, “Why does it sound so strange to want to be pretty? Because it [the surgery] does not cost much, many wealthy women have already gotten plastic surgery or are trying to get it”.
Mr. Kim said “Most women have gotten plastic surgery through recommendations from other people. And well-known surgeons make lots of money”.