Mihaela Noroc: Beauty Is Politics, Beauty Defies Politics

“Women of North Korea are not familiar with global trends but this doesn’t mean that they are not preoccupied by their look.While neighboring South Korea has the world’s highest rate of cosmetic plastic surgeries, North Korean women live in a different world.” – Noroc

21 images, taken by photographer Mihaela Noroc, have shaken everyone’s perception about North Korea. Are these photos the usual ones we see of Kim Jong Un and expressionless men in olive military uniforms? Quite the opposite, in fact. These photos capture the unique beauty of North Korean women. Take a look at a select few. [all images from Pop Sugar].


Boulevard-Pyongyang NKoreanwomen

My Humble Opinion?

Well, first let me ask my readers: what do you see in these photos? I think Noroc’s photos have turned beauty into politics. When people in America see photos associated with North Korea, their responses are mostly shaped by the political atmosphere surrounding North Korea. One commenter on Pop Sugar said that it is very “poignant” that none of these women are smiling. This comment was clearly not based on the photos themselves, which shows quite a few smiling women, but on the political aura of the nation that is North Korea. Another commenter seemed annoyed at the whole idea of these pictures: “ok, now show us the real women of NK”, by which he meant the ones starving from “malnutrition”. But the truth is, who really has the guts to say he or she knows the women of North Korea? After being in the nation and photographing some women, all Noroc herself can say is: “they live in a different world.”


I am really interested in what can happen when the seemingly superficial topic of what is beautiful in a person overlaps with intense, complex political issues.

Politics sure as hell alters our view on beauty (another commenter not-so-subtly emphasizes in all-caps: “my wife is a 52 year-old SOUTH Korean woman…she [is] more beautiful than any of these ladies”), but can beauty defy politics? After all, that is Noroc’s goal, to show specifically the Western eye the infinite definitions of what beauty can be – that female beauty should be allowed to be free of political and cultural stigma, and teach us how to not only be tolerant but also appreciative of different people from different backgrounds.  

Let me know your thoughts! I wish Noroc best of luck on her Atlas of Beauty project – a project that is truly changing our perspective on female beauty.


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