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We may yet see Kim Jong Il, a dictator known for his eccentric fashion style, wearing chic blue jeans from next year.
A Dutch magazine company Ode has reported Wednesday that Noko Jeans, operated by three young Swedes, will launch a jeans-manufacturing company in North Korea as early as the beginning 2009. According to the Noko Jeans blog (www.nokojeans.com/process), the project began as an attempt to produce and import jeans from North Korea.
The three Swedes actually visited Pyongyang this summer, where not only were they able to close the jeans manufacturing deal but also got the chance to play some North Korean video games and eat North Korean hamburgers.
North Koreans have never previously been allowed to wear jeans because jeans signify capitalism in the hermit kingdom. According to a North Korean defector from border city Sinuiju, there are dress codes and these dress codes are often strictly regulated. “We are regulated from top to bottom” he said. “We are not permitted to have long hair and we are not allowed to wear not only jeans but any pants that are too tight around our legs,” he added.
North Koreans apparently know about jeans because some North Koreans who visit Japan or China bring a pair or two back. However, no one is allowed to wear them.
North Korean workers wear jumper jackets over suits, as we see the Dear Leader wearing. Soldiers wear collared button-down shirts buttoned up all the way to the top and students are required to wear the school uniforms. Women must wear skirts and they are arbitrarily checked on the streets.
According to the defector, North Korean women prefer wearing pants at work places. “So women wear skirts to work then change into pants at work. Sometimes women wear pants on streets but whenever they see the Community Watch Guard, they just pull up a skirt over our pants” he explained.
As Noko Jeans enters the hermit kingdom, North Korea may have to increase the number of Community Watch Guards restricting North Korean fashionistas.
In a country where wearing blue jeans is forbidden, people would only be allowed to manufacture them. Who knows, Kim Jong Il may actually enjoy wearing them, if he gives himself and his people the chance.
Sturdy jeans seem to be appropriately fitting for Kim Jong Il’s bleak nation. However, as jeans were actually a sign of resistance and freedom in South Korean society in the 1970s, linked to the democratization movement of the 1980s, they could also represent the wind of freedom and democracy for North Korean youth.