North Korea is banning leather trench coats to prevent its citizens from copying its Supreme Leader’s style, according to Radio Free Asia. The outlet reports that young men have been banned from wearing leather trench coats, with police seizing the jackets from citizens and sellers alike. Using an unnamed source from within North Korea, the news outlet reported that the clampdown began after people began imitating Kim Jong Un’s style.
‘Even Kim the Great and all of the high-ranking officials wore leather coats during the military parade at the 8th Party Congress in January,’ the source told Radio Free Asia, referring to Kim by an honorific. Kim Yo Jong, Kim’s sister, also wore leather coats and they gained popularity among North Korean women.
RFA reported that clothing sellers began importing synthetic leather coats to imitate Kim’s look as leather coats began to be recognized as a symbol of power. According to the source, young men protest, saying they bought the coats with their own money and there is no reason to take them away. As a result of the complaints, the police have responded by saying that wearing clothes designed to look like the attire of the Highest Dignity is an ‘impure trend designed to undermine the authority’ of the Dignity. In keeping with the party’s directive, the public was instructed not to wear leather coats.
The cost of buying real leather in North Korea is extremely high, with cowhide coats costing around $34, reports Radio Free Asia. Those made from synthetic leather cost around $16 and are half the price. However, it is still an astronomical amount for the average North Korean to pay. In 2018, the South Korean publication JoongAng Daily reported that the average North Korean earned $4 in basic income. A regular North Korean worker earns a salary of $201 annually, plus bonuses, making a real leather jacket a luxury item worth two months’ salary.
A second anonymous source, speaking to Radio Free Asia under anonymity, said that leather jackets have always been popular in North Korea, especially after South Korean actor Jang Dong-gun wore them in the early 2000s. At that time, South Korean films began spreading to provincial cities, and the leather jacket worn by actor Jang Dong-gun became all the rage and is still in vogue, according to a second source. State-run trading companies that have partially resumed maritime smuggling are able to provide rich entrepreneurs with fabric for the coats by placing orders with them, according to the source.