Kim tries to disguise regime-threatening economic crisis with cut-price wigs and false eyelashes
North Korea is increasingly turning to wigs and false eyelashes to stave off an economic crisis that threatens to bring down the regime of Kim Jong-un.
Unlike coal, minerals, food and other exports that Pyongyang has traditionally relied on to earn foreign currency, items incorporating synthetic hair are classified as craft products and are not banned from export by UN sanctions.
Taking advantage of this loophole, state-owned factories in North Korea have raised production and set up partnerships with Chinese middlemen in border cities such as Dandong, doubling their exports.
Prices are relatively cheap and the North Korean traders' margins are slender but the products are sought after because of their quality, Japan's 'Asahi' newspaper reported.
It added that the paperwork with the wigs and false eyelashes was in Japanese, raising the possibility that the Chinese middlemen could be exporting them to Japan, possibly after attaching "Made in China" labels to make them more appealing to chain stores around the world.
Sanctions are increasingly affecting life in North Korea, with coal mines and state-run factories shut down, workers failing to turn up to their jobs in order to try and make more money in the markets, and reports that many schoolchildren are skipping classes to go door-to-door in Pyongyang selling charcoal.