The first scene of the video was filmed in Wonsan City, Kangwon Province in 1998. The footage–filmed by an ASIAPRESS reporting partner during the chaotic period of the 90’s, known colloquially as the “arduous march”–shows women at a market sitting down, wearing exhausted faces. They are deeply tanned and do not wear makeup. They could not be bothered to care about their looks since they have to work hard and for long hours to earn money to provide for their families.

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After businesses through the black market were legalized in 2003, women have started to wear makeup as their living standards slightly improved. In the market place, Chinese, South Korean, and Japanese cosmetic products are sold. Sellers were explaining their products to their customers.

Since men must work at state-designated companies or organizations—otherwise they face penalties—women have played an essential role in the functions of the market. A seller–holding a baby–does not forget to use an umbrella to block the sun and to wear makeup even while selling food. Most of the women selling products and food at back alleys and in the market place wear makeup.

A female ASIAPRESS reporting partner in Pyongyang said, “People judge you based on your looks not the food you eat, because they can’t see inside your stomach. Of course, that's why women care about wearing makeup and fashionable clothes, they want to get attention from the guys.”

Everywhere now there are women wearing much more sophisticated makeup. Though this seems promising the majority of the lives of people in North Korea are still harsh, however they have started to care about their looks even while struggling to survive through daily hardships.

Related article: [Video Report] Wholesale Black Market Prospering with Prohibited Goods

Rimjingang_banner001* Editor’s notes on North Korean reporters
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