Modernizing North Korea One Outfit At A Time

In an attempt to appear more in touch with time, we saw an upgraded Kim Jong Un giving his annual  speech earlier this month where he says, “the North is now a complete nuclear arsenal and the button is always on my desk.”

He then struck a more conciliatory tone with South Korea and even suggesting that North Korea may compete in the Winter Olympics in South Korea next month.

Compared to previous Mao style suits, at the speech, Kim Jong Un deployed a new wardrobe as part of the diplomatic makeover for 2018.

A combination image of file photos released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un giving his New Year address from 2013-2018. – REUTERS

The softer tone, stylish Western suit and matching grey tie was a stark change from his usual Mao suits and analysts are trying to read between the lines for the cause of the sudden change.

“There has been a lot of speculation that he is trying to make the North Korea look more modern and connected,” says Robert Kelly of Pusan National University to the New York Times.

South Korea’s state-run Korea Institute for National Unification described the change from previously darker Maoist suits to a Western style suit as a way of portraying the image of peace and reflecting a relaxed state of mind following the completion of nuclear statehood after successfully testing a new missile capable of hitting anywhere in the United States.

Fashion evolution of North Korea’s First Lady

North Korea’s first lady on the other hand has become quite a bit of a fashion idol among the public. Her first appearance was in 2012 at a musical performance. Since then, she has occasionally showed up at special events, and her fashion choices have often been a point of discussion.

She wears fashionable and colourful dresses instead of the traditional hanbok. The first time she was spotted she wore a fitted two-piece black suit with white piping-detail, and later on, she wore a white dotted mustard yellow dress and a red polka dotted jacket over a black dress while visiting a kindergarten and an amusement park.

After Ri’s numerous public appearances in 2012, North Korean women began to open their eyes to a new world of glamour. According to South China Morning Post, fake designer clothing inspired by her style began to sell in its market.

In  North Korea, she became an important reference for fashion, and suddenly colourful dresses, miniskirts and high heels emerged in Pyongyang.

In addition to her vogueish appearances, Ri is known to have expensive tastes. Her affection for labels such as Red Valentino, Dior, Tiffany, and Movado has been well documented on camera.

Recently she wore a check navy blue dress with a skinny belt to a banquet and opted for a floral pattern coat dress for a factory visit. She prefers a half-updo haristyle and natural make-up.

Her latest looks are considerably more sophisticated and refined, compared to her wardrobe a few years ago. Some are even saying she’s following the footsteps of Kate Middleton.

According to a recent study from the KDB Research Centre, North Korea is slowly moving towards a society that accepts expressions of individuality.

Ri’s style might be nothing more than a matter of personal taste but it is slowly affecting the public sphere.

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