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Lifestyle

Guns and beauty cream for South Korea's soldiers

SEOUL (Reuters Life!) - South Korean soldiers, at the ready on the Cold War’s final frontier, are finding time to put down their weapons and put on moisturizing cream.

A K200 armored car's soldier applies camouflage paint on his face during an annual winter military exercise against a possible attack from the North Korea in Yoju, about 105km (65 miles) southeast of Seoul in this February 2, 2007 file photo. South Korean soldiers, at the ready on the Cold War's final frontier, are finding time to put down their weapons and put on moisturising cream.Two major cosmetics makers have seen sales boom among South Korean conscripts who are refusing to let a military uniform mean the end of their beauty routines. REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak/Files

Two major cosmetics makers have seen sales boom among South Korean conscripts who are refusing to let a military uniform mean the end of their beauty routines.

“The trend among South Korean young men is to try and look good and they are not going to let the army lifestyle stop them,” said Kim Tae-youn, an official with Amore Pacific.

Amore Pacific, which offers products such as skin cleansers and facial cream at about 1,200 military base shops, has seen sales jump 200 percent in the first half of 2007.

Men in their early 20s are required to serve about two years in the armed forces in a country still technically at war with communist neighbor North Korea.

“It used to be that no men’s beauty products were sold on base,” a Defence Ministry official said. “This is a reflection of the new generation and how democratic Korean culture is becoming. I think it’s a good thing.”

With their meager salaries, the young soldiers are often asking parents to send money to help them buff up their looks.

“I became worried that my skin would get rough and dark after I joined the army. If I want to meet my girlfriend during vacation, I have to take care of my appearance,” one conscript told the national daily Chosun Ilbo.

The paper said many soldiers are also buying wigs to cover their buzz cuts to look fashionable on leave.

One of the hottest products for soldiers is a moisturizing facial mask from cosmetics maker Missha, which supplies 2,000 military shops.

“The men are more aware that it is difficult to revitalize skin once it loses its youthful tone. Whether you are a soldier or not, more men are taking care of their skin at an early age,” said Missha spokeswoman Lee Hye-young.

With additional reporting by Jon Herskovitz

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