Kim Jong-un face mask stirs controversy in South Korea

Packaging for the face mask Image copyright 5149/Instagram
Image caption Thousands of controversial "nuke masks" have been sold in South Korea

A South Korean fashion and cosmetics firm has stirred controversy with a facial mask featuring Kim Jong-un.

The firm says it has sold more than 25,000 "unification moisture nuclear masks" since June.

However many South Korean stores have halted sales amid a public backlash and concerns over the masks' legality.

The North Korean leader and his regime have been criticised by the United Nations for "systematic, widespread" human rights abuses.

In South Korea it is illegal to speak favourably of the North Korean government, though the law is rarely enforced.

Both North and South Korea are still technically at war, but leaders from both countries attended talks this year over denuclearisation.

'Political agenda'

The so-called "nuke masks" were created by 5149, a South Korean fashion and cosmetics company.

Propaganda-style slogans claim they contain mineral water from Mount Paektu. In Korean mythology, the sacred, active volcano is the birthplace of Dangun, founder of the first Korean kingdom more than 4,000 years ago.

Image copyright 5149/Instagram
Image caption Designers 5149 have been criticised for their use of North Korean imagery to promote their product

In an interview with the New York Times, 5149 chief executive Kwak Hyeon-ju said she wanted the masks to celebrate the "once in a lifetime" Korean summits held earlier this year.

Dozens of Koreans have posted pictures of themselves on social media with the masks, which cost 4,000 won (£2.80).

But several stores have pulled them from their shelves following a backlash from local media.

"Personally, I don't like merchandise promoting a certain political agenda," Irene Kim, a South Korean skincare expert, told the South China Morning Post.

"A few years ago, North Korea was the largest threat to our country… Kim Jong-un was seen as a dictator and a tyrant who would stop at nothing to disrupt world peace, now he's become the face of a popular face mask," she added.

Mr Kim has led North Korea since the death of its former dictator, his father Kim Jong-il, in 2011.

The country's communist regime has been criticised by the UN and human rights groups for "systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations".

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