An unexpected and controversial new beauty product is flying off the shelves in South Korea: ‘nuclear’ beauty masks featuring North Korea’s Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un.
The masks were produced by 5149, a South Korean cosmetics and fashion company. Each mask comes packaged with an illustration of Kim Jong Un wearing his own ‘nuke’ mask.
The packaging also includes propaganda-style slogans like ”All hail moisture for all women of the North and South!” that advertise its core ingredient: water from Mount Paektu.
Mount Paektu is a sacred volcano in Korean mythology that is said to be the birthplace of Dangun, the founder of the first Korean dynasty. It is located on the border between China and North Korea, where President Moon Jae-in of South Korea met with Kim Jong Un for their historic 3-day summit.
5149’s chief executive, Kwak Hyeon-ju, told the New York Times that the mask packs were created to celebrate these “once in a lifetime” summits.
While rarely enforced, there is a law in South Korea that forbids “praising, inciting or propagating the activities of an anti-government organization”. The law forbids South Korean citizens from speak favorably of the North Korean government, but that hasn’t stopped these ‘nuke’ masks from selling like hotcakes.
Since June, more than 25,000 of 5149’s “Unification Moisture Nuclear Masks” have sold in stores and online for the price of 4,000 won ($4) each.
Despite the product’s popularity, some stores have pulled it from their shelves due to backlash. Irene Kim, a South Korean skincare expert, told the South China Morning Post that she is not a fan of merchandise that comes with a political message.
“Personally, I don’t like merchandise promoting a certain political agenda. A few years ago, North Korea was the largest threat to our country… Kim Jong-un was seen as a dictator and a tyrant who would stop at nothing to disrupt world peace, now he’s become the face of a popular face mask.”
— Irene Kim
Park Sang-hak, chairman of the human rights group Fighters for a Free North Korea, had an even strong opinion about the masks. He feels that masks’ popularity indicates how much South Koreans have fallen for North Korean propaganda, following the summits.
“Kim Jong-un’s nuclear ambitions get justified and even beautified by the words ‘nuclear bomb mask pack.”
— Park Sang-hak
At this time, it is uncertain whether 5149 will discontinue the product…
…but costumers are still proudly posting selfies of themselves wearing their ‘nuke’ masks.