DMZ Cosmetic Ingredients Localized Treasure Warehouse
DMZ Cosmetic Ingredients Localized Treasure Warehouse
  • By The K Beauty Science
  • Accepted 2020.10.21 10:45
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CI KOREA Conference Day 2 (July 28)
Topic: SUSTAlNABILITY / DMZ and Cosmetics

Why DMZ Cosmetics?

Recently, the Korean cosmetics industry has faced many difficulties, including the Corona 19 crisis, overtaking the Chinese market, and tightening global regulations. In particular, the expected rise in the price of cosmetics materials following the entry into force of the Nagoya Protocol is a huge burden on Korea, which relies on imports for more than 70 percent of its materials. As the Korean cosmetics industry has been developing by overcoming many difficulties at home and abroad, it is time to seek ways to overcome the current crisis based on technological development capabilities, ideas and creativity. One way to do so is to reduce dependence on imports and secure competitiveness based on technological capabilities through the development of materials using domestic genetic resources.

Sustainability, a trend facing the cosmetics industry, is in line with the emphasis of ethics in the big picture. In this respect, reinterpreting the concept of sustainability can be redefined as the embodiment of the ethics of corporate social responsibility, sustainability in the environmental aspect, and the concept of contributing to society in the industrial aspect and promoting sustainable development in the industry. From this point of view, it is necessary to find a joint strategy for inter-Korean cosmetics utilizing the unique resources of the DMZ as a new path and overcoming the current problem. This is because improvement and cooperation in inter-Korean relations through cosmetics as well as industrial aspects can be made possible through joint development of DMZ cosmetics products.

The joint development of cosmetics using native plants in the DMZ can be launched and promoted in a short period of time without any political burden between the two Koreas, and it is a project that has great feasibility and ripple effects as a project that is beneficial to both the two Koreas. It is a long-term sustainable project that can continue to provide North Koreans with the effects of improving health and quality of life while also providing economic and social assistance to the South. In other words, it is a project that not only contributes to the atmosphere of reconciliation and cooperation between the two Koreas, but also achieves economic achievements at the same time, a strategy in which the cosmetics industry can carry out social responsibility and pursue sustainable development.

North Korea Cosmetics Industry

The size of North Korea's cosmetics market is little known except for the amount of 1 export and import, and is estimated by the GDP per capita and the amount of cosmetics consumed per capita in many countries around the world. According to the report, the size of the cosmetics market in North Korea is estimated to be about $72 million (100 billion won) as of 2017. North Korea's cosmetics market is expected to grow 12-fold to 8.7 billion dollars in 2030.(North Korea's per capita GDP of $2,700 and its ratio of cosmetics purchases to GDP of 0.8 percent have risen to the level of South Korea, with a population of 27 million).[2] North Korea's cosmetics, soap, toothpaste, and other chemical daily goods companies have been identified as 46 companies since 2000, two of which are Pyeongyang's Yang Cosmetics Factory and Sinuiju Cosmetics Factory. The Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory, which was completed in 1962, began with a factory that produces soap and toothpaste and recently developed into a factory that produces about 60 products of 10 different types, including various cosmetics labeled "silky water." In particular, it has a Cosmetics Research Institute that develops designs for cosmetic containers, designs of trademarks, and raw materials necessary for cosmetics production. The Sinuiju plant is North Korea's largest cosmetics production plant, founded in 1949, and produces high-end lines such as ginseng-infused basic cosmetics "You and I" for export purposes. Meanwhile, graduates of Kim Il Sung University, RI University, and Hamheung Chemical University are concentrating on research and development to innovate, develop new products and improve quality.[3] These two factories do not produce cosmetics that can be used by the general public well, but they produce basic cosmetics sets or export products that are distributed as gifts to residents on the birthday of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il's birthday 3.8 International Women's Day, and the special day when they are trapped.[2, 4] North Korea's four major cosmetics brands are "Eunhasu (Pyeongyang Cosmetics Factory)," "Spring Scent," "Geumgangsan (Spring Scent Joint Company)" and "Mirae (Mohyangcheon Lake Joint Company)." Among them, "Eunhasu" and "Spring Scent" are popular among North Koreans. The number of galaxies is a brand that North Korean media are promoting extensively for export, and the scent of spring is the most popular cosmetics for North Korean women and foreigners who visit the North mainly for domestic consumption.

This is because North Korea's cosmetics technology level was limited to other investments in cosmetics industries, which are light industries, as it pursued the development of major industries in the military and heavy industries, advocating the 30-40-year technological gap between the 1970s and 1980s of South Korea. As a result, it is known that not only the quality of the contents, but also the container's products are often not leaking or the lid does not mesh with the container, so they are shunned by consumers.[5] Also, the supply of cosmetics is far from keeping up with demand, and the production is far short and expensive. Nevertheless, the significance of the North's cosmetics industry cannot be overlooked. The meaning of the cosmetics industry in North Korea goes beyond just beauty products and high-end consumer goods. It is an important means of governance. In North Korea, which is heavily focused on the military sector, cosmetics are used to address complaints from its people and to provide benefits to the people of the ruling party. This is why the most advanced industrial products except for nuclear and missile technology are cosmetics, and North Korea's top leaders have been interested in the cosmetics industry since the time of Kim Il-sung's founding father, and must include cosmetics factories on the site.

Interest in the cosmetics industry is considered one industry that should be fostered by Kim Jong Un.[7] After visiting Pyeongyang Cosmetics Factory, which completed expansion and repair work in October 2017, Chairman Kim Jong Un ordered the production of products that can compete with world-famous cosmetics brands. He also visited the same place in 2015 and pointed out the comparative evaluation of foreign and North Korean cosmetics he saw while studying in Switzerland and the problem of North Korean products, calling for globalization by creating a brand called "Milky Way" along with improving the quality of production products.[2] The research on cosmetics in North Korea is being conducted by the Institute of Flavour and Cosmetic Engineering, a branch of light industrial chemistry founded on July 13, 1954. The institute consists of a spice research room, an analytical laboratory, and an unknown room, and includes Pyongyang Cosmetics and Sinuiju Cosmetics Factory.[8]

Meanwhile, Kim Jong Un stresses that political make-up is one of the rights to enjoy as a people living in a civilized country of the socialist state, and one of Moon's life. This means that cosmetics, as well as politics, are attracting attention as an industrial sector that is intensively managed by North Korea's economic development strategy. In fact, North Korea is intensively fostering cosmetics, along with health foods, textile products and household goods, in areas where it can compete with its own technology and resources. This is because cosmetics are relatively not difficult to manufacture and are competitive.[9]

strategies for Joint Development of DMZ Cosmetics

Recently, North Korea's cosmetics industry is seeking to modernize/unmanify its production process by localizing raw materials through stem cells and natural materials in line with the teaching of "domesticization of raw materials and materials" and "modernization/informationization," an economic war strategy during the Kim Jong Un era.[9] However, as pointed out earlier, the level of technology is underdeveloped and the quality of the products is not high enough for consumers to prefer cosmetics from South Korea, which is why high-priced South Korean products are being traded at high prices in North Korean marketplaces, and are attracting attention as bribes, gifts and wedding gifts to high-ranking North Korean wives.[2]

While the North Korean leader's interest in cosmetics is high, the low level of technology, coupled with rising demand for cosmetics, and the state's admiration and preference for South Korean cosmetics make it possible to predict that inter-Korean cooperation may be high in the field of cosmetics research and development. In particular, the joint development project of cosmetics using abundant natural/unique resources of the DMZ can satisfy the demand of both the South and the North, and the following projects can be carried out.

First, joint development of cosmetics using DMZ native species and localization. To this end, it is necessary to first excavate plant distribution co-pilots and Korean native species in the DMZ, so the first step is to utilize the information investigated by local governments such as the Ministry of Environment (National Institute of Ecology) and Gyeonggi-do and Gangwondo, and if additional data are needed, it can be investigated through the South-North Joint Investigation Committee. By establishing a library of plants that can be used as cosmetics materials by processing such basic information, the two Koreas can jointly promote the use of information, materials and products. Specifically, the development of materials and the development of technologies for extracting efficacy ingredients and mass production of high-quality products can be carried out at the same time. The necessary natural resources can be secured through collection and cultivation in the DMZ, but the use of Biotech technology (e.g., the amount of stem cell lines) not only does the removal of landmines not create a significant burden, but it can also achieve this unknown effect of high-tech convergence. The fact that North Korea's cosmetics industry focuses on developing high-quality functional cosmetics with a large amount of natural materials instead of artificial and synthetic materials [11] and has technology to develop cosmetics for using stem cells is a favorable condition for the joint opening of cosmetics using natural resources in the DMZ.

Second, it is to provide North Korea with the development of cosmetics materials, transfer of products development technologies such as older brothers, and support the training of cosmetics experts. The enhancement of North Korea's cosmetics technology is one of the main concerns of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un [12], and it is necessary to train North Korea's cosmetics experts in order to sustain the project for a long time and enhance its effectiveness. North Korea would also prefer to secure its own technology and manpower rather than rely on the South. North Korea's training of all civil servants for cosmetics can be started through participation in the joint survey of the Demilitarized Zone and cooperation projects for the development of cosmetics dogs. It is also possible to develop and support exchange programs to foster professional human resources such as materials, formulation, and evaluation. For this purpose, it is possible to develop specialized programs and send experts to Kaesong and other areas to provide education, or to select and educate North Korean experts at specialized universities or graduate schools in South Korea. If domestic cosmetics companies (schools, etc.) participate in the joint research/development process, there will be no major difficulties in implementing them.

Third, in the mid- to long-term, it is also possible to develop exchange programs among local governments, and to support the development of human resources and exchanges through sisterhood ties between the kidnapped local governments in preparation for unification and after that. If local governments support the development of cosmetics at the North Korean Counterpart Station, focusing on organizations that play the role of developing and supporting cosmetics in Techno Park TP, they will not have much difficulty in preparing or executing cosmetics at the North Korean Counterpart, so it is possible to apply a plan to establish partnerships in connection with existing inter-Korean economic cooperation projects or the advantages secured by local governments.

Depending on the maturity of North Korea-U.S. relations and inter-Korean relations, the implementation of joint projects between the two Koreas will inevitably be affected. If the U.S. maintains economic sanctions against North Korea as it is now, or if the North does not come to the dialogue table, it will be difficult to push ahead with the cooperation project. Until the improvement of inter-Korean relations or cooperation becomes visible, it is necessary for South Korea to develop cosmetics using DMZ resources alone to create an atmosphere. South Korea may first push for the development of cosmetics introductions based on data previously researched by each agency, and may encourage North Korea to participate based on its achievements.

Expected Effects and Prospects

The development of cosmetics (materials) using natural and natural resources in the DMZ will have the effect of localization of cosmetics materials, replacement of imports, and securing competitiveness. It is expected to demonstrate preemptive response to the Nagoya Protocol and strengthen the competitiveness of domestic products, and will also contribute to the development of the North Korean cosmetics industry. If North Korea jointly participates in various international exhibitions and promotes them, it can also secure global market promotion effects and competitiveness through clean and peaceful cosmetics. The DMZ was selected by the U.S. weekly magazine Time in 2009 as one of the 25 places worth visiting in Asia, and everyone in the world knows it, as he expressed regret over his visit to the DMZ several times during U.S. President Trump's visit to Korea in 2017. It is also very advantageous in terms of marketing if Korea is transformed into a 'clean and peaceful' image and linked to cosmetics brands.

Next, the scope of cooperation can be expanded to areas other than cosmetics. Cosmetics companies often conduct functional food businesses, and if they perform well in the cosmetics sector, the joint development area can be expanded to functional food development and further to pharmaceutical development. In particular, it is possible to link the project to cooperate with oriental medicine (South) and Goryeo medicine (North), which have common roots based on DMZ native plants. In the mid- to long-term, it can be expanded to all natural resources, including all areas and marine resources in North Korea. In the case of North Korea, there is a difference in vegetation between the two countries. And the development of cosmetics that utilize various natural resources has already been carried out. Accordingly, it is possible to expand into a project to develop cosmetics, functional foods and medicines that utilize various natural resources in North Korea.

The inter-Korean cosmetics joint opening project using DMZ resources can also bring about the creation of a peaceful atmosphere between the two Koreas, especially the image of South Korea leading the project at the forefront of peaceful unification.In other words, it will contribute to the creation of an atmosphere of peace and cooperation between the two Koreas.It is also expected that international and North Koreans will create a friendly atmosphere toward the South. In particular, the DMZ joint survey project, which should be preceded by the joint project, will provide direct and leading help to ease the tension caused by the confrontation. If this facility is used as a joint production and research facility in connection with the withdrawal of GPs currently in progress, and as a tourism facility in the mid- to long-term, its effect may be doubled.Developing an area that has not been developed within the civilian control line as a joint inter-Korean farm site for natural resources can also help both Koreas in terms of economy. According to the analysis so far, OEMs and subsidiary companies will be more advantageous than ever, as the results that can be expected directly in the cosmetics industry are expected to be more effective in preoccupying the North Korean cosmetics market. North Korea's past leaders have used cosmetics as a major means of public relations in promoting women's policies and emphasized the production of cosmetics as a means of promoting women's policies, so it is not easy to allow South Korean cosmetics imports in public.[4] Under the leadership that emphasizes self-reliance and self-reliance, the immediate distribution of foreign brands, especially South Korean Brand products, is bound to be a burden to the regime. Also, the frequent exposure of South Korean brands to residents without filtration is not a positive environment at all for governance. Therefore, the possibility of measures to distribute the brand directly is low. However, demands for high-quality cosmetics will continue, and chances are high that the company will choose to improve the quality of North Korean brands through OEM and ODM products. The subsidiary materials are also in line with their demand for sophisticated products because they do not reveal their sources of manufacture. Therefore, OEM and ODM companies are expected to make inroads or profits in the short term. If the atmosphere matures in the mid- to long-term, it will be possible for Brand products to enter the market. This ultimately means that North Korea is likely to be included in the South's cosmetics market. Crisis can be an opportunity in other ways. The joint development of DMZ cosmetics will provide an opportunity for the cosmetics industry to overcome the Nagoya Protocol and the crisis of sustainability, while at the same time co-exist in political, social and economic aspects at the national level.


[l] Park Eun-jin, "The Characteristics and Prospects of North Korea's Cosmetics Industry," Weekly KDE Report, September 11, 2017.

[2] Park Jong-dae, "Two Main Characters of Jangmadang, Donju and Marketization," Presentation of the Unification Economic Forum on the Korean Peninsula, 2018.

[3] Lee Sang-geun, the success story of Sinuiju Cosmetics and the Future of the Korean Economy, the Institute for National Security Strategy, 2018.

[4] Nam Sung-wook, Chae Soo-ran, Lee Ga-young, North Korean women and Cosmetics, Hanul, 2017

[5] New Daily, 2017.10. 20.

[6] Korea economy, 2017.10. 29.

[7] MK News, 2018. 6. 12.

[8] CNC News, 2018. 4. 30.

[9] Jeon Young-sun, "Cosmetics in North Korea: North Korean Cosmetics Are Changing," Tong In-Side, Tong In-Side, July 10, 2019.

[10] Lee Jin-sun, China and Russia Fair, North Korea's cosmetics industry, China's Shenyang Trading Department, and 2019

[11] ECONEWS, 2018. 7. 18.

[12] Park Jong-dae and Seo Hyun-jung, "Between Expectation and Reality, Balance," and Consumer Financial Investment, 2019.

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