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Rediff.com  » Getahead » Being the wife of North Korea's dictator Kim Jong-un

Being the wife of North Korea's dictator Kim Jong-un

January 05, 2018 08:20 IST

The mysterious Ri Sol-ju is driving a fashion revolution!

Ri Sol-ju and Kim Jong-un

 

If there is one thing North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un loves more than power -- and his ongoing whose-missile-or-nuclear-button-is-bigger battle with American President Donald Trump -- it is the limelight. So, his wife Ri Sol-ju's presence in his propaganda photographs is occasional.

Despite that, Ri -- who married Kim Jong-un in 2009 and made her first media appearance at a musical performance in 2012 -- has emerged a fashion icon for the women of the country who are otherwise cut off from the rest of the world.

The South China Morning Post noted, 'In North Korea, where neither Instagram nor Vogue exists, she became an important reference for fashion, and suddenly colourful dresses, miniskirts and high heels emerged in Pyongyang... Ri is known to have expensive tastes, and her affection for labels such as Red Valentino, Dior, Tiffany, and Movado has been documented on camera.'

SCMP added, 'Ri's Western style, which was formerly considered the guise of "the corrupted capitalist bourgeoisie", soon turned into a new trend. Fake designer clothing inspired by her style is commonly sold in markets in North Korea.'

Scroll down to see how Ri Sol-ju is heralding a fashion revolution in a country where women have had to adhere to a strict regime-approved dress code so far.

 

2012

Photographs: KCNA/Reuters

For her first publicised appearance, Ri Sol-Ju wore a black two-piece suit with white piping detail, and retained her short-ish hemlines for subsequent appearances that year. She was especially daring when she pinned a dazzling brooch on her emerald green and black dress -- instead of the conventional Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il portrait lapel -- at the opening ceremony of the Rungna People's Pleasure Ground.

SCMP said, 'After Ri's numerous public appearances in 2012, North Korean women began to open their eyes to a new world of glamour.'

 

2013

Photographs: KCNA/Reuters

A year later, Radio Free Asia revealed, 'Imitating her [Ri's] lead, young women in Pyongyang -- and some young men -- are buying up fake designer clothing made by tailors within North Korea in an industry so sophisticated it has its own flagship district. Tailors copy designs of luxury clothes brought in from China or Japan, and the fakes are sold openly in Pyongyang's markets and department stores, according to residents and merchants in the city.'

 

2014

Photographs: KCNA/Reuters

Ri Sol-ju's fashion choices aroused more interest than expected because of her previous career as a singer and the fact that North Korean first ladies before her remained out of the spotlight.

 

2015

Photographs: KCNA/Reuters

South Korean think tank KDB Future Strategy Research Institute also attributed the changing trends in North Korea to Ri Sol-ju, citing highers imports of precious metals and fashion accessories into the country between 2012 (Ri's first public appearance) to 2015 as the basis of its claims.

'It said that the imports have doubled over the mentioned period,' IB Times reported.

 

2016

Ri Sol-ju

Photographs: KCNA/Reuters

Apart from the influence Ri has had on fashion in North Korea, observers have also taken note of her own fashion evolution. 

SCMP observed, 'Her latest looks are considerably more sophisticated and refined, recalling outfits worn by actresses in Korean dramas, and a far cry from her frumpy wardrobe of a few years ago.'

 

2017

Ri Sol-ju

Photographs: KCNA/Reuters

Seoul-based stylist Kim Myonghee told SCMP, 'Ri seems to assure her presence and status through fashion, which is comparable with first ladies and royals across the globe. It appears that she wants to send the message to the outside world.'

Rediff Get Ahead Bureau