Slavery is alive and well in North Korea and much of it is producing fake hair and eyelashes for the American consumer.
North Korea is using their slave labor to pump out as much hair and eyelashes to bring their economy back after the pandemic lockdowns. Fake hair and eyelashes are the primary source of income for North Korea. In fact, 90% of North Korean trade is with China and 65% of that trade is just for hair and eyelash products.
In most cases, it is not legal for American companies to have direct trade with North Korea, so Chinese companies play the middle man and make massive profits for their efforts. Chinese companies pay for the hair and eyelashes directly to the North Korean government and then turn around and sell them to the US with a ‘made in China’ label.
In the first seven months of 2023, North Korea exported 182 tons of hair products, worth a total of USD 17.96 million. That’s three times the country’s exports of hair products for the same period in 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
China is the largest exporter of wigs and other human hair products to the U.S. amounting to $128.6 million. This means that many consumers of hair and eyelashes could be helping support the state slavery in North Korea.
Troy Stangarone, senior director at Korea Economic Institute (KEI), states “If firms utilize China as part of their supply chain, they need to be aware” they could be “unknowingly sending North Korean goods to the United States.”
The North Korean government provides bare minimum food and housing for the workers and keeps the profits for themselves. Some of the slave workers making the wigs and eyelashes are as young as nine years old.