North Korea is banning ordinary citizens from wearing the long black leather coat that has become the trademark of Kim Jong-un, on the grounds that mimicking his style is “a challenge to the authority” of the dictator.
Police in parts of the reclusive country are stopping anyone wearing a back trench coat and confiscating it on the spot, while market traders are also having their stocks seized, Radio Free Asia quoted sources as saying.
The Workers’ Party has reportedly issued a directive on who is permitted to wear jackets that have become a symbol of status and power.
Long, belted leather coats – often associated with secret police in repressive regimes – have been fashionable in the hermit state since 2019, when Mr Kim appeared on state TV wearing one.
Other members of the ruling political and military elite have been quick to catch on to the trend, with Mr Kim surrounded by men wearing identical overcoats during the military parade at a party congress in January.
Kim Yo-jong, Mr Kim’s younger sister and considered by some to be next in line to rule the country, has also been seen wearing one of the jackets.
There has been a surge in demand for coats imported from China among those who can afford genuine leather items.
Dealers have also been swift to ship in fake leather to democratise the style of a leader who is referred to as the “Highest Dignity”.
The import drive comes despite North Korean authorities’ efforts to seal the border in response to coronavirus, and the introduction of harsh new punishments for anyone caught entering the country illegally.
The coats are also a demonstration of wealth, despite the state frowning upon such a capitalist concept.
A genuine leather coat costs the equivalent of £25, while a synthetic version will cost £12. The average salary of a North Korean working at a state-run enterprise is less than £1 a month.