Friday, August 14, 2009

North Korea’s “Dear Leader” opens umbrella boom

Kim Jong-il may be at the forefront of a fashion trend that has just hit the streets of Pyongyang: Using oversized umbrellas as parasols.The North Korean leader started travelling this year with a soldier whose job is to carry a large black umbrella to protect him from the sun.Kim, called the “Dear Leader” by his state’s official media, has been trailed by his umbrella bearer on many occasions since he returned to the public scene earlier this year after suffering a suspected stroke a year ago.The iconic traffic ladies of Pyongyang have been swept up in the trend inspired by Kim.
Visitors to the North Korean capital have a hard time forgetting the young women who stand at major intersections in uniforms and direct the few cars on the road with gestures that seem inspired by military drill sergeants and professional boxers. Pyongyang does not have traffic lights. One of the few state secrets that residents of the North Korean capital will share with foreign visitors is that these women are often selected for their looks.It appears Kim, who is also greatly concerned about their access to make-up, was behind the umbrella proliferation:“The traffic controllers are moved by the warm affection shown for them by General Secretary Kim Jong-il who saw to it that the platforms with umbrellas are being set up this time after raincoats, rain boots, sunglasses, gloves and cosmetics as well as seasonal uniforms were provided to them,” the North’s official KCNA news agency said on Thursday.
(PIcture at top: North Korean leader Kim Jong-il visits the Yeonsa district revolution battlefield at an undisclosed place in North Korea, in an undated photo released by North Korea’s official KCNA news agency May 24, 2009. The photo of the traffic policewoman was released on August 13, 2009.)

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