North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong Un is stepping up his attempt to rebrand his nation by relaxing a series of laws, it was claimed today.
Research has found more women are wearing trousers, platform shoes and earrings, while more mobile phones have been made available.
Kim Jong Un has also endorsed previously banned foods like pizza, French fries and hamburgers — and given children free trips to zoos and amusement parks.
It is thought to be part of the 20-something leader’s drive to create a ‘children’s heaven nation’ and follow in the footsteps of his late grandfather, the country’s founder Kim Il Sung.
Dong Yong-Sueng, North Korea specialist at Samsung Economic Research Institute, said: ‘It’s all part of his image making to imitate a warm, fatherly impression like his grandfather.’
Kim Jong Un, who officially assumed the title of supreme leader on December 28 last year following the state funeral of his father Kim Jong Il.
Kim Jong Un’s father, who had ruled since 1994, was seen as a strong but cold leader.
But Kim Jong Un wants to establish an image that harkens back to what some North Koreans nostalgically remember as better times in the 1970s.
Under his grandfather, the country was economically backed by the Soviet Union with sufficient food to feed the nation.
‘The powerful and prosperous Korea of the future in which you will be the masters, will be a most powerful country where every home will be full of laughter and everybody lives in harmony,’ he announced to a crowd of 20,000 children invited to Pyongyang at a ceremony marking the 66th anniversary of the Korean Children’s Union earlier this month.
The union is a state-run organisation for nine to 14-year-olds.
The invited children, handpicked by party officials, were given opportunities to visit zoos, amusement parks, and attend concerts.
Crowds of enthusiastic kids were seen pledging allegiance, shouting, and crying at the sight of their new leader, who wore the children’s symbolic red scarf.
Kim Jong Un was educated in Switzerland during his early teens. He has initiated numerous policy changes to allow people more freedom and entertainment in their daily lives.
North Korean state TV last month showed an image of Kim in a straw hat with a huge smile paying a visit to Mangyongdae Amusement Park and pointing at its roller coaster.
Kim was also seen browsing through the park’s fast food restaurant that sells hamburgers and French fries.
In the past, such delights were considered too western and were banned.
But now they’re endorsed by the party. ‘These facilities are eternal gifts to the people by our great leader,’ state TV reported.
Another popular policy change that Kim pushed to win hearts was the lifting of the ban on women wearing trousers in public.
‘The rule was proposed by Kim to his father in 2010. That marked the beginning of a fashion revolution in North Korea,’ Mr Dong told ABC News.
The only times women had been allowed to wear pants were when they were working in factories or in the fields. Any women walking the streets in pants were subject to a police warning or a penalty.
‘If caught, sometimes they would cut your pants right there in public to make it into a skirt,’ said Park Ye-Kyong who defected to the South in 2004.
But even when the tough restrictions applied, women did not stop pursuing fashion, including getting their hair permed or dyed.
‘Yes, we were hungry but desire to look beautiful lies in any woman,’ Park explained shyly in her new home in Seoul.
Analysis by the Samsung Economic Research Institute found North Korean women have been increasingly spotted wearing skinny jeans, earrings and high heels.
The institute ranked platforms ranked second out of 10 most popular items in North Korean society last year.
The study is based on what average North Koreans acquired using information from defectors, press and other sources.
‘The international media tends to show the privileged in Pyongyang, or the hunger-stricken poor in the northern regions. But our standard in choosing what’s hot there was strictly focusing on daily realistic lives of average families,’ Mr Dong told ABC News.
There is no way to determine how large a percentage of North Koreans can afford new products or how widespread their availability. The government has always maintained that all citizens are equal.
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