Kim Jong Un-themed beauty masks have been pulled from South Korean store shelves amid controversy over their appropriateness for depicting the North Korean communist leader in too positive a light.
The beauty product’s producer, 5149, told The New York Times that 25,000 of the masks were sold in stores and online since June. Company chief executive Kwak Hyeon-ju said the masks were sold in celebration of the inter-Korean summit that took place earlier in the year.
“The fact that the worst dictator in the world—who violates human rights of its residents—is portrayed as someone who can be part of making world peace shows that South Korean society has lost the ability to filter through and control the situation,” Kang Dong-wan, a professor of North Korean culture and politics at Dong-A University in Busan, South Korea, told NYT.
But Kwak has a different view. The appeal of the product with the South Korean public is that it is lighthearted. Kwak talked about how she viewed the inter-Korean summit and the moment South Korean President Moon stepped across the border with Kim.
“I don’t know what Kim Jong-un means in North Korea or what he represents politically, but the whole country of South Korea was happy,” Kwak told NYT. “I wanted to pat Kim Jong-un’s shoulder for coming.”
But some feel that South Koreans are just getting duped by North Korea, while the horrors caused by Kim are overlooked, and that this product is a sign of that.
“Kim Jong-un’s nuclear ambitions get justified and even beautified by the words ‘nuclear bomb mask pack,’” said Park Sang-hak, head of Fighters for a Free North Korea, via NYT. Park was referring to the product’s playfully intended, yet ominous name.
Favorable depictions of North Korea are actually illegal in South Korea, ever since a law was passed in 1948. But that law is rarely enforced today.
A commercial on the 5149 official Instagram account shows a promo for the product full of satire, poking fun at the notoriously staid North Korean state news broadcasts, the regime’s nuclear tests, and Kim’s personality.
As for the mask’s moisturizing power, they supposedly contain water from the Paektu Mountains that sit on the border with China and North Korea, Sky News reported. The Paektu Mountains are the location where the South Korean president and the North Korean leader took a photo together at the end of their September summit.
Kim and Moon have met three times this year, a milestone in diplomatic relations between the two states. They’ve met twice in the joint security area on the border and once in Pyongyang, according to Sky News. Kim has said he would go to Seoul for another meeting.
Sky News wrote that the next meeting wasn’t mentioned again after the September meeting, but the media outlet thinks that the public may not hear about the next meeting until after it happens, as was the case with Kim’s trip to China in March.
A friend of Kim, Canadian businessman Michael Spavor, was recently detained in China on suspicion of “harming its national security,” according to the BBC. The arrest is seen as a reaction to Canadian authorities’ recent arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou.
From NTD News