North Korea: Beauty Plays In the Psychological Warfare

A North Korean waitress who looks much alike South Korean actress has become a new celebrity in South Korea. A YouTube video of a North Korean college girl praising its regime’s generosity on her rich family has drawn several ten thousand views. North Korean defectors in South Korea are warning this as North Korea’s soft-core move.

A photo of North Korean waitress (left) and South Korean actress Kim Tae-hee(right)

This anonymous waitress debuted in South Korean blogosphere as Koreans who visited a North Korean restaurant in Cambodia noticed her look and uploaded photos of her in their sites. The waitress immediately got a reputation as ‘North Korean Kim Tae-hee’ by her appearance similar to South Korea’s top actress. Some Korean netizens have been calling her as the North Korean goddess or the reason to unify two Koreas. Even the North Korean state-run restaurant caught some of the attention deflected from her.

Serious politic bloggers, however, advice people to delve deeper than the skin-deep. A blogger NKinside commented in a post titled ‘For whom North Korean Kim Tae-hee works for?’ that these beautiful girls are exploited laborers working for North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jung Il’s good.

북한 식당은 해외에서 많이 운영되고 있다. 대표적으로 평양 옥류관을 들 수 있다. 평양, 개성, 금강산 등 북한 내에도 식당이 있지만, 북경, 상해, 캄보디아 등 해외에 많은 분점을 운영 중이다. 그리고 모두 미모의 아가씨들이 서빙을 보고 있는데, 이는 외화벌이를 위해 북한에서 파견된 아가씨들이다. 낮타임(12시반경) 밤타임(19시경) 하루 두번 무대에서 노래 공연도 이뤄진다. 옥류관의 정책으로 손님들의 사진 촬영, 기자들의 인터뷰 요청에 거절없이 호의적으로 응한다. 북한 아가씨들의 미모를 홍보하는 차원일 듯…힘들게 번 월급의 대부분이 김정일 주머니로 들어가고 있는 실정이다.

Many North Korean restaurants are running in foreign countries. One good example is the PyongYang Ok-ryu Gwan. It has branch restaurants not only in PyongYang, Gaesung and Mt. Kumgang, but also in Beijing, Shanghai and Cambodia. Almost all cases, beautiful ladies whom dispatched from North Korea to earn foreign currency are serving the customers. There are even the music performance twice a day, around 12:30 in the afternoon and 19:00 in the night. These waitresses are open to photo shoots with customers and interview requests from journalists. It is like promoting North Korean beauty… And most of their hard-earn money enters straight into Kim Jung-il’s pocket.

A screen shot image of the video from An Chi-yong's blog
, now unavailable.

It is not North Korea’s first time to leverage the situation by the beauty card. A month ago, videos of a North Korean college student lauding its regime and showing off her affluent family and high living standard were posted on the YouTube site. This North Korean girl is from the PyongYang University of Education where only children of loyal families to the regime can enter. She bragged on that the regime has paid her new, bigger house and sneered at South Korea’s housing problem. This college girl got a nick name ‘North Korean Face college girl’ (‘face’ as in someone with good appearance) in South Korean blogosphere.

South Koreans’ immediate response to the video was mockery. A blogger Minazz99 pointed out a scene most other netizen were also laugh at, the Face girl using a American brand HP laptop and the Hangul, South Korean Word software, products from two countries that North Korean regime lashes out as the state enemy and the traitor government.

…북한의 얼짱여대생이 미제 노트북을 사용하는 장면을 두고 네티즌 사이에서 비판의 목소리가 거세지고 있답니다. 영상물을 접한 네티즌들은 미국을 철천지 원수라고 지칭하면서 노트북은 왜 미제껏을 쓰는지,,70년대 대남 선전용 홍보물처럼 진부한 내용과 흑색선전 뿐이다라는 지적의 목소리를 높이고 있다고 하네요.

The netizen’s criticism is intensifying around a scene of North Korean Face college girl using an American brand laptop. Netizens who watched the scene pointed out that (the irony of) using American laptop while blaming the United States as a deadly foe and commented the video as just another cliché of North Korean propaganda leaflet which was popular around 1970s.

A North Korean defector living in Seoul adds a professional insight to the incident. Jang Jin-sung wrote in his blog that since the reclusive North Korea controls individual’s outfit and hairstyle, only the secret agents who has to infiltrate South Korean society can dress South Korean-ish. Jang worked for North Korea’s governing Worker’s Party as a writer before he defected to South Korea in 2004. Jang analyzed this North Korean move as an attempt to soften its image after the Cheonan incident that killed 46 South Korean sailors.

동영상의 여주인공을 북극성 요원으로 보는 이유는 북한 일반 여성들에겐 불법이나 다름없는 그의 남다른 최신 헤어스타일이다. 폐쇄적인 북한에선 옷이나 머리도 개인의 사상적 표현으로 간주한다. 더욱이 강력한 통제사회에서 선전물에 등장하는 인물은 모든 면에서 엄격하게 전형화 된다…이런 이유로 북한에서 유일하게 남한 노래들만 전문적으로 연주하고 부르는 통전부 소속 ‘북극성’ 요원들만은 헤어스타일, 억양, 옷차림을 남한의 최신 유행에 맞춘다…아마도 통전부는 천안함 도발로 극대화된 저들의 공격적 이미지를 미모의 여성심리전을 통해 순화시키려고 한 것 같다.

The reason why I suspect her as a North Star’s secret agent is her hairstyle. (North Star is the name of North Korea’s Secret Intelligence Department) In reclusive North Korea, individual’s hairstyle and outfit are understood as the expression of their political ideology. Especially someone who stars in a propaganda materials can only display the archetypical characters in such a controlled society….Therefore only the North Star agents from the Unification Bureau of the Worker's Party are allowed to keep up with South Korean fashion trend in hairstyle, outfit and accent…I believe that the Unification Bureau of the Worker's Party is trying to purify North Korea’s hostile image by the beauty-psychological warfare.

While North Korean regime is testing the softer approach, bleak outlooks on North Korea economy and its health care are pouring nonstop. What the government should open is a war on hunger, not a psychological war on outer enemies.


  • Dario

    Well in the very typical indirect fashion that has been their tactic for the past few decades, a “soft war” to make the country seem less threatening would eventually help resume economic activities with the South, thus bringing more money into the country and therefore helping the population eat a little bit more. Or starve less than usual…
    But it would also help the regime of course.

    Let’s hope nothing will go out of hand during the joint military exercises with the US, this is a very dangerous game they’re playing and a new way to deal with them.

    Anyways thank you for posting all these diverse and very interesting articles!

  • […] A North Korean Youtube video of a pretty North Korean girl bragging her affluent life style recieved blogger’s huge attetion around June. The N.Korean Youtube girl praised its regime and leader Kim Jong-il for his generosity to her family, apparently to promote the regime. South Koreans, pointing out that a computer she uses is made by U.S. company which North Korea antagonizes, mocked this move as North’s same old propaganda in a new fashion.(Read More)   […]

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