Eden Havel | News Editor
December 4, 2021
“Respect the drip, Kim!” is something people wish they could say in North Korea now, after Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un banned leather jackets last week, feeling that people were copying his style. This was another move made by the 37-year-old Supreme Leader banning everyday items, closely following the ban of K-Pop (which he believes to be a “vicious cancer”), as well as skinny jeans and mullets (which he feels represents “Western decadence”). Radio Free Asia reports that actual fashion police have been patrolling the streets of North Korea in search of anyone who is continuing to twin with Kim Jong-Un, explaining that wearing a leather jacket from a local Burlington Coat Factory is an “impure trend” that questions the authority of “the Highest Dignity.”
The leather jacket has been Kim’s thing since the early 2000s, and even more so since his first television appearance in 2019 that made it known around the world. Since then, the classic trench coat and slicked-back hair with sunglasses look have been reinvented by thousands in North Korea. The leather coat ensemble is what the Highest Dignity wears on an everyday basis and something his sister and potential successor Kim Yo-Jongalso wears when she stands beside him.
“It shouldn’t be surprising that things continue to be banned in North Korea, but somehow, banning leather jackets just pushes it over the edge,” junior Ava Huntington. “I mean, in my opinion, we should all stop wearing leather in general and listen to the Chick-Fil-A slogan! But it seems to be an act of insecurity on his part rather than a political move.”
It was recently declared impure to steal the style of the Supreme Leader of North Korea, but residents are beginning to break under the weight of all these random, spur-of-the-moment regulations, asking why it is that suddenly these jackets are considered disrespectful to their government. People have begun to protest his decisions and feel that they are unfair and unnecessary. (masalabox.com)
This is not the only surprising move made by Kim Jong-Un in the past month. On November 23, 2021, a man was sentenced to death for smuggling copies of the Netflix series Squid Game into the country on illegal flash drives. Multiple students found guilty for the same crime have been sentenced to life in prison. As media gets more and more accessible, trends and pop culture from around the world have begun to find their way through the doors of the heavily guarded North Korea, causing concern to its leaders that have gone to great lengths to hide the country from outside influence—and especially western culture—since 1945 when the dictatorship began.
Although North Korea often finds itself the laughing stock of the rest of the world—from the memes that have been made of Kim Jong-Un, the many newborns that have been dressed as him for Halloween, the long Twitter battle between him and former President Donald Trump, articles entitled Kim Jong-Un Defies Gravity with His New Haircut, and even the laughter that comes from simply looking at some of his group selfies…
—the citizens themselves still have a very different perception of what the entire world thinks and knows about their country. In the 1950s, Kim Il-sung’s personal cult began to grow, and more and more of the world media was pushed out of the country. Today, North Korea has three television channels only, a custom calendar revolving around Kim Il-sung’s birthday, only 28 legal haircut options, and a three-generation rule (sending the entire family of a criminal to life in prison). With so many unjust laws and arbitrary restrictions, the recent ban of leather jackets should come as no surprise. However, North Korean citizens are starting to become fed up, with young men arguing that they shouldn’t have to give up a jacket that they paid for that keeps them warm.
“The internet could be a possible hope for North Koreans since it’s all getting more accessible,” says sophomore Kai Olsen. “More and more people are trying to watch stuff like Squid Game and getting in trouble for it. So much of our world can change in positive ways because of how easily people can get educated by social media, even though it can be a dangerous thing at times.”
The future of Korea is uncertain as social media becomes more common and Kim Jong-Un seems to be panicking under that reality. It altogether leaves people to question whether these bans are a genuine power move, or projections of Kim Jong-Un’s personal insecurities and fear for the future. But one thing is certain: due to technology, global awareness is impossible to entirely prevent. In light of this, North Korea may have hope for a new reality. But until then, we can continue to expect the bans of normal necessary clothing items until further notice.