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View more articles by Dagyum Ji
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
One of North Korea’s longest-running cosmetics factories recently launched a new online store for its top “Pomhyanggi” (scent of spring) brand, the country’s external-focused Meari outlet reported on Wednesday.
Meari— which primarily targets international audiences — said the new website, managed and operated by the Sinuiju Cosmetics Factory and likely run on the country’s closed-off intranet, has recently “gained popularity among users.”
The navigation menu reportedly includes an “introduction of the organization, online store, sales unit, platform for discussion, and distribution of knowledge,” the outlet said, without providing further information.
“Subscribers are able to see details including the price of cosmetics that they want to purchase, as well as the phone number and location of sales units, on the online store,” Meari said.
The article gives no clues as to how customers can make purchases, however.
“As soon as the ‘Pomhyanggi’ homepage was launched, it received positive reviews from many subscribers,” Meari reported.
The launch of the website comes amid notable progress in North Korean e-commerce — most notably the “Manmulsang” website.
That store also has Chinese, English, and Korean-language online versions, selling products and advertising trade companies.
It also appears to run two distinct websites targeting domestic and international customers.
Other examples include the Sili online store, which allows customers to use an electronic payment system and online booking services to purchase plane tickets and make reservations at high-end Pyongyang restaurants.
North Korea’s Pyongyang Department Store No. 1 also last year launched a website which offers a guide to its in-store facilities, details about its restaurants, and an online store, among other services.
ALL ABOUT POMHYANGGI
Pomhyanggi is one of the North’s major cosmetic brands, alongside the Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory’s Unhasu (The Milky Way) brand, and their marketing appears to be aimed at attracting both domestic and international customers.
The Korea Cosmetic Trading Company, located in the city of Sinuiju, specializes “in the production and marketing” of Pomhyanggi cosmetics, the North Korean online outlet Naenara reported in March this year.
The company, according to Naenara, “began to be known to the world with its Nowana and Kumgangsan cosmetics,” but people are now more “familiar” with Pomhyanggi.
July 2018 also saw Chinese state-run Global Times report that the North Korean cosmetics industry “may gain a lot from China once the country opens up,” citing experts.
Pomhyanggi products, the Global Times continued, are manufactured in a factory located on the Sino-DPRK border area — “frequently mentioned by visitors returning from North Korea” on the Chinese e-commerce platform application Xiao Hong Shu (小红书).
In an interview with the outlet, director of the Center for Korean Studies at Fudan University Zheng Jiyong said the “beautiful” women of North Korea had played a role in promoting Chinese interest in North Korean cosmetics.
Pomhyanggi-brand cosmetics are also on sale at the Chinese online shopping website Taobao, owned by e-commerce giant Alibaba.
State media also frequently cites the product as a top domestic brand, with Meari reporting in March that Pomhyanggi cosmetics “have been on sale receiving favorable comments from people at various commercial networks in the city” including Pyongyang Department Stores No. 1 and No.2, Kwangbok Area Shopping Center, and Pothonggang Department Store.
Most popular is the men’s skincare and anti-aging cream, that reported added, as well as make-up, therapeutic cosmetics, and hair dyes.
The Sinuiju Cosmetics Factory is the country’s oldest cosmetics manufacturer: built in 1949 on the instruction of the late founding President Kim Il Sung, it was re-established in South Sinuiju (or Namsinuiju) following a visit by then-leader Kim Jong Il in 1999.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un also visited the Sinuiju Cosmetics Factory in July 2018, accompanied by First Lady Ri Sol Ju.
That inspection saw Kim express “great satisfaction,” state media said, calling for the factory to “constantly improve research to improve the quality of products and increase product categories in accordance with the preferences, age, and constitution of consumers, while studying and analyzing world-famous cosmetics.”
The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in June reported that the factory “has developed various functional cosmetics like eyelashes growth promoter, beauty mask for acne treatment, and mosquito repellent cream” in response to Kim’s orders during the visit.
Various cosmetics brands have been produced with “country-level attention,” it added, saying that the development was made due to the “wise guidance” of the North Korean leader.
Edited by James Fretwell and Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Meari