North Koreans focusing on Kim Jong Un's new look more than New Year's address content

Kang Mi Jin, Kim Sung Il  |  2018-01-03 13:30
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Following North Koreas annual broadcast of Kim Jong Uns New Year's address to the nation, residents have reportedly been more interested in the leader's changing appearance than the content of the speech. 

Watching each years New Year's address is compulsory for all North Koreans, with workers required to gather for the 30-minute speech and others viewing it in their homes. 

A source in Ryanggang Province told Daily NK that "most people find the speech boring, and some are discussing more superficial observations.

One of the most common points of interest is the fact that Kim Jong Un was not wearing a Kim Il Sung pin on his lapel during the speech. The source said she heard people talking about how Kim has not worn the badge for the second year in a row now. 

On the other hand, some people have reacted positively to Kim Jong Un's decision, saying, "Conducting such an official public speech without wearing the badge is quite a bold departure from the past."

Kim Jong Un's appearance is also being linked by some to an attempt to "display new confidence" after the countrys successful ICBM test launch and other recent military developments.

But if Kim Jong Un is not wearing the badge of his grandfather, he may instead be trying to embody the former leader's appearance by wearing a grey western-style suit reminiscent of one worn by Kim Il Sung. Kim Jong Un wore a black Mao suit for every New Year's Address between 2013 and 2016, but then changed to a black western suit in 2017. His outfit changed again this year to a grey suit, grey necktie, and white shirt. 

The source heard this sentiment reflected in conversations among North Korean residents, where many remember the iconic grey suit worn by Kim Il Sung during his meeting with former US President Jimmy Carter, and are now claiming that Kim Jong Un is "copying the appearance" of his grandfather. 

Some are saying that the move reflects a careful attempt by Kim Jong Un to shed the image of a young and inexperienced leader in favor of the strong and steady appearance of Kim Il Sung. 

The color change itself, from a dark suit to a grey suit, can be seen as a significant gesture intended to display confidence.

"He's trying to get rid of the youthful look and appear older," said one person with whom the source spoke in North Korea. Kim Jong Un's decision to begin wearing glasses during the speech in 2016 was also judged in a similar fashion.

But despite his attempts to convey a more distinguished look, the young leader has not been able to calm his characteristically anxious demeanor during the speech.

He can be seen frequently shifting his weight and checking his notes throughout the address, a departure from the demeanor of the man he is trying to imitate. In addition, frequent cutaways to a still image of the building where the speech is taking place are used to conceal the scenes of Kim reading over his speech manuscript. 

Indeed, the cutaways were so frequent, said a source in Pyongyang, that she "remembers the image of the outside of the building more than images of Kim Jong Un." 

*Translated by Colin Zwirko

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