North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's wife Ri Sol-ju is becoming a style icon for women in Pyongyang, who eagerly copy the fashions she is seen sporting in the state media. According to an informed source, women in the North Korean capital are walking around in the short skirts and accessories Ri has been wearing as she accompanied her husband on public occasions.
Ri's style is typified by flower-shaped broaches, ribbons, and clothes with polka dots and ruffles. She enjoys wearing dresses reminiscent of Chanel and accentuates them with flashy accessories like hairbands. She has even been spotted wearing pants, see-through blouses or sleeveless shirts, which are considered daring by North Korea's reactionary moral standards.
"She gives the impression that she is rather immature and does not like to be controlled," the source said.
Inspecting statues of late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and nation founder Kim Il-sung late last month, Ri wore a W4.8 million (US$1=W1,136) necklace from Tiffany's. She also favors a Christian Dior clutch bag that costs W1.8 million and a Movado watch priced at W1.2 million.
Born in Pyongyang in 1989, Ri attended the Kumsong Arts School, which is favored by the elite. "Ri comes from an elite family and probably has no idea of the suffering of ordinary North Koreans," the source said.
According to a North Korean defector from Pyongyang, Ri came to school "looking like a rich kid, carrying thermal lunch boxes and wearing a watch, slim pants and shirts."
One North Korea expert said it remains to be seen whether Ri raises her profile too far and ends up like former leader Kim Jong-il's wife Song Hye-rim, who was abandoned even though she gave birth to his eldest son Jong-nam. Song, a former actress, reportedly suffered from depression when Kim Jong-il fell head-over-heels in love with dancer Ko Yong-hui in the mid-1970s and died in Moscow in 2002. Ko is the mother of Kim Jong-un and his brother Kim Jong-chol.