Leather trench coats reportedly jumped in popularity after Kim was seen wearing one on TV in 2019, and imports from China were snapped up by the wealthy before an influx of fake leather garments.

Eventually, the coats became commonplace until police began to confiscate the clothing from sellers and citizens. Another TV appearance this year popularised the look again, an anonymous resident of Pyongsong told Radio Free Asia, featuring not just the leader but high-ranking officials and his sister Kim Yo Jong in leather attire.

“So now the leather coat has become a symbol for powerful women too,” the source said.

“As leather coats began to be recognised as a symbol of power, private clothing merchants asked trading company officials to import synthetic leather since September of this year. … They copied the design of the leather coats worn by the Highest Dignity and the officials and now they are being sold in the marketplace.”

Citizens have complained about the coat crackdown, but the police have responded by saying that “wearing clothes designed to look like the Highest Dignity’s is an impure trend to challenge the authority of the Highest Dignity”, instructing the public that it is part of the party’s directive to decide who can wear them.

Leather coats in North Korea are prohibitively expensive for citizens. Those made of real leather cost about 170,000 won (US$34), while fake leather runs around 80,000 won (US$16). Meanwhile, the average North Korean monthly salary in 2018 was about 4,000 won (US$0.66).

Source: Radio Free Asia