In a move that solidifies his position as the world’s heavyweight champion of all things slightly creepy, a recent report claims that all Kim Jong-il has demanded that all waitresses working in North Korean-owned restaurants outside of the country undergo double eyelid surgery.
“'When I was in Pyongyang last year, I heard from someone related to the North that since the start of the 2000s all waitresses had double eyelid surgery on Kim Jong Il’s instructions,' and added, ‘It seems that Kim Jong Il places great importance on the appearance of workers in restaurants earning foreign currency.’”
"Only the privileged classes are given the rare opportunities to go abroad, to work as diplomats, government-sponsored business representatives or study as college students," reports Asia Times. However, "Many young females from the elite [most with college degrees] opt to work at these culinary outposts." All are required to have the surgery performed.
This decree is slightly incongruous with another made by the petite dictator when he officially banned cosmetic surgery. But then again, not a lot of things done by Dear Leader makes much sense. Anyway, whether he made it necessary or not, the demand for the procedure is rapidly growing.
The surgery, which involves reshaping skin around the eye to create an upper eyelid with a crease, giving East Asian eyes a more Western appearance, was originally only available to wealthier Korean citizens but the practice is being demanded by all social classes.
(File report from 2007)
"Ethnically, about 78% of Koreans are born without double eyelids. In South Korea, double-eyelid surgery began to pick up in the 1960s as movie stars spearheaded the trend. They wanted to have 'bigger eyes' like their Western counterparts. Now, the trend is rapidly penetrating into Hermit Kingdom despite its isolation."
There are differing views on how widespread the plastic surgery phenomenon is in other parts of North Korea outside the capital. A news report from 2006 claimed that in Chinese border town Shinuiju alone, more than 60% of the women had had work done. Most of the recipients of the surgery are young, college-aged women who must undergo the transformation before they go abroad.
Furthermore, a disturbing market trend indicates that North Korean surgeons are increasingly offering cosmetic surgery in return for bribes and other illicit goods. It should also be pointed out that this is all being done at a time when severe food shortages and economic distress has resulted in the United Nations sending aid for over three million starving Koreans.
But more than having disordered priorities, the trend also carries with it health implications. "Open Radio for North Korea," a Seoul-based media outlet that collects news from informants inside the North, said the plastic surgery boom is spreading to rural areas, with unlicensed surgery often having less than desirable results.
One can only hope that this trend, as well as the dictator who encourages it, will soon go away.
Editor's note -- Here is a guide to double eyelid surgery:
And here is a classic report from VBS.TV on a surreal visit to a North Korean restaurant: