June 22, 2015 10:01
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has repeatedly appeared in public without the obligatory red badge with the portraits of his grandfather and nation founder Kim Il-sung and his father Kim Jong-il.
On a field inspection of a biological research center on June 6, he was badge-free, and again on June 13 during a field inspection of an artillery training school.
The badges are effectively mandatory for all North Koreans, from senior apparatchiks to schoolchildren. North Korea watchers believe Kim abandoned them to consolidate his own, more modern image.
The young leader did not mention Kim Il-sung even once during his New Year's address, and a childcare center he opened in May was conspicuous by lacking a Kim Il-sung portrait and only had a picture of Kim Jong-il.
The only officials who do not wear the badges are direct descendants of the nation founder and their immediate family, such as Ko Yong-hui, Kim Jong-il's wife, and Ri Sol-ju, the wife of Kim Jong-un.
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