Word has emerged from ultra-secretive North Korea that university students in the country have caught onto an increasing trend for having cosmetic surgery in a bid to improve career prospects.

Many Asian countries are reporting an increase in the numbers of young people choosing this summer break to have cosmetic procedures aimed at making them more employable in the future.

DailyNK, a major source of North Korean news, reports that South Korean women’s love of permanent makeup and eyelid enhancements has now spread to the north.

This is a major change for North Koreans, who had previously been ordered to steer clear of any trends viewed as anti-socialist and were bound by strict appearance codes. The country’s youthful leader Kim Jong-un is said to be easing these restrictions, however, in a bid to make himself appear to be a progressive, modern leader.

One North Korean source – who, like most, chose to remain anonymous – said that double-eyelid surgery, known as blepharoplasty, and eye tattoos are seeing an increase in popularity.

There are no figures detailing the numbers of cosmetic procedures taking place in North Korea but the source claims that almost one in five of all university students in the country will now undergo cosmetic surgery.

In a major contrast to practices in Britain, many of these procedures will be done in the client’s own home. There are licensed physicians carrying out the work but there are also others with no formal qualifications.

Yet, DailyNK states that it is viewed as a fact that only the most attractive women from North Korea will be given the opportunity to work abroad, something that many in the country hope for.

Technically, cosmetic surgery procedures are still illegal in North Korea but the source said that it is now openly available in even state-run clinics and hospitals.

This shift towards a more appearance-focused society is largely being attributed to the influence of Ri Sol-ju, the wife of Kim. She has been accredited with the relaxation of stringent rules on women wearing skinny jeans and trousers in general since her husband inherited power in 2011.

Higher heels are now being seen in Pyongyang, the country’s capital, and even in remote areas, accessories once dubbed ‘anti-socialist’ are making an appearance.

Ri Sol-ju is seen as a style icon in the country and most people now believe that if this woman, as the Marshal’s wife, can dress stylishly then there is little risk of them being punished for doing the same. Certainly, the DailyNK source said that she has no evidence that anyone has suffered as a result of choosing to have cosmetic surgery or opting to deviate from the previous ‘norm’ of an ankle-length skirt, no make-up and bobbed hair.

She added that the ‘new concept’ of paying to enhance an individual’s looks was quickly taking hold in a country renowned for its harsh restrictions on its citizens and its refusal to follow trends popular in the rest of the world.