Looking Like Hyun Bin or Kim Nam Joo

[imText1]Shenyang, China — The so-called ‘Korean Wave’ is strong with today’s young North Korean adults. As copies of illegally-recorded South Korean dramas flow into the country in greater numbers, some affluent young adults are keen to imitate the main characters in the dramas they are watching.

Of late, some children of rich parents are said to have tried to obtain the kind of tracksuit worn by Hyun Bin, who recently personified the life of a ‘self-centered and arrogant urban male’ in the popular SBS drama ‘Secret Garden’. For women, the trend is to follow the fashion of Kim Nam Joo, who played the main character in another drama, MBC’s ‘Queen of the Turn Around’.

Kim, a Korean-Chinese who trades between Dandong and Sinuiju, recently gave an interview to The Daily NK about the trend towards South Korean fashion in contemporary North Korea.

– Recently, what South Korean products have been the most popular with North Koreans?

All South Korean products are popular. There are many customers who want to buy South Korean products, so there are many sellers. Products with South Korean letters on can be sold for two or three times the price of other products.

– But what about the security services?

Agents who perform the inspections say, ‘we’ll let you sell them as long as the Korean letters are erased’. However, the trend is that more and more customers are looking for South Korean stuff, and since there is no way to prove whether the product is from South Korea if there is no Korean lettering, increasing numbers of merchants, who don’t want to miss a sale, think ‘I’ll just sell it as it is’ despite the crackdowns.

– What clothing is the trendiest these days?

The recently-aired South Korean drama ‘Queen of the Turn Around’ has been the most popular. Clothing worn by the main characters is popular. Except those things which reveal too much chest and the skirts, it’s all very similar to China. Now, skinny jeans are being worn by a surprising number of women.

– This is true even though South Korean products are more expensive?

It is such a big trend that even young adults who are having trouble making ends meet feel that they have to buy these things; fights with parents over it are on the increase, too. The price of boots and such like is $20~30, but they sell a lot to young females. Clothing sells for between $15~100.

– Do the wealthy classes or children of cadres also by many South Korean products?

They buy the most. Children from the houses of cadres or the wealthy seek the exact clothing which appears in South Korean dramas. Recently, fake mink has been popular. Especially, middle aged people in their 40s and 50s are wearing clothing made of fake mink a lot.

– What about when the product is different from that which the consumers are looking for?

There is a separate person who amends clothing. The cost of getting something changed is about 10,000 won, so they also make a lot of money. As a result, security agents try to get close to them. They visit them sometimes to get bribes; the agents don’t bother them.

– Why are South Korean products so popular?

It is because people are watching CDs of South Korean dramas secretively and imitating them.

– What if the same product people see on film is not on sale?

The person makes a drawing of the nice clothes which appeared in the drama or brings a picture. Clothing manufacturers have a hard time when young females bring an image and beg them to make the clothing no matter what.

– Especially is that the case with the children of cadres?

Once I met a child who brought the image of an item which would have been impossible to obtain, and then asked whether I could even get it by going to South Korea; that was a difficult situation. Not long ago, there was also one person who asked me to obtain the tracksuit worn by the main character in a recent South Korean drama.