Posts tagged “fashion

North Korean Middle School Badges

North Koreans are initiated into the wearing of badges and insignia at a young age. In the Rason SEZ I found kindergarten children wearing red star badges as a reward for exemplary performance.  Throughout the country regimented middle school children compete for rank; those who win responsibilities, receive and wear arm badges.

Young Pioneers at the Mangyongdae Native House North Korea

The highest ranking student in a class receives an arm badge displaying three bars and three stars, as the boy above is wearing.

These types of badges are not available for tourists at souvenir shops, but I did find them.  I purchased several using local North Korean currency at the public market in the Rason Special Economic Zone.

DSC08554 (1)

Of the two middle school badges I purchased, the one on the right, two bars and one star, ranks higher than the the one on the left, three stars and one bar.  I wore the higher ranking badge on my arm in the DPRK and the locals were absolutely delighted.  Women giggled, men posed for pictures with me, and I was repeatedly asked why I only held a mid level rank.

DSC03458

Notice the lower ranking badge in the above picture; after leaving my camera battery charger at the Nampo Hot Spring Hotel and having to return for it, Miss Yu, the North Korean guide, demoted me!


The FBI in North Korea

DSC05278

Shhhhh, dont tell, but the FBI has infiltrated North Korea!

Actually it’s just a Chinese knockoff hat worn by a North Korean at the Mt. Chilbo Home Stay Village. The man had no idea what the hat signified and seemed bewildered by all the attention and requests for photos – and just to be clear, he was wearing the hat, we didn’t put it on him.


Military Fashion

If Looks Could Kill

Female soldier wearing high heels – photo by Joseph A Ferris III


Kim Jong-il’s New Jacket

The Kim Jong-il statue on Pyongyang’s Mansudae Hill got a new jacket this year: a massive bronze winter parka.

DSC01790

The Mansudae Hill Kim Jong-il statue was originally unveiled to the North Korean people on the April 15th, 2012, the 100th birthday anniversary of eternal President Kim Il-sung.  I was among the first group of tourists to visit the statue when the monument was officially reopened to foreigners the following day.  The original 2012 Kim Jong-il statue attire included a bronze medium length formal style jacket.  Apparently authorities didn’t find the formal jacket representative to late leader’s career, so master artists of the Mansudae Art Studio were tasked to cast a giant copy of the late leader’s iconic  winter parka – see Kim Jong-il looking at things.

Time examined Kim Jong-il’s parka and reported the following comments from the North Korean Rodong Sinmun:

“People around the world are attracted to and following not only the jacket our Great Leader is wearing,” Rodong Sinmun wrote in 2010, “but also his attitude, facial expressions, hand gestures, and even his handwriting.” All over the world, the parka was “the most valuable and noble item to have.”

The New Pyongyang Kim Jong-il Statue

Original Kim Jong-il statue with the 2012 formal bronze jacket.

Photos by Joseph A Ferris III


Unified Korea Costume Propaganda

Pyongyang 100th Year Kim Il Sung Birthday Celebrations

A band leader wears a uniform with a graphic showing a unified Korea; subtle propaganda intended for the eyes of those foreigners who had come to see the Kim Il-sung 100th birthday celebrations.

I took this picture on the morning of April 15th, 2012 the 100th year anniversary of Kim Il-sung’s birth.  On that morning all foreign tourists were bused to a park in the Pyongyang suburbs, far away from the military parades and Kim Jong-un’s public address to the North Korean people.

Marching band performances, folk game competitions, and interactions with school children were the activities the North Koreans used to keep us occupied during our sequestration away from that morning’s downtown main events.  The entertainment at park may have been a disappointment for some, but the holiday week of Kim Il-sung’s 100th birthday was still an epic time to have experienced North Korea.


Iranian Suits

Iranian suit shops; there was an entire street of them just meters from our Tehran hotel. In their display windows mannequins show off the most hideously fantastic men’s wear I have ever seen (although the shops in the mariachi district of Mexico City are stiff competition). Haberdasheries of bling and of the cheesiest swag, these suits are Gangnam Iran style and I wanted one! Unfortunately our group quickly moved on from Tehran leaving me with an intense longing to return for a fitting.

On the final day of the tour we returned to Tehran where we had a very special dinner planned at the Armenian Club, the one place in Iran where non Muslims can drink. I didn’t have much time but I let Gareth Johnson, owner of Young Pioneer Tours and trip leader, and Marko Moudrak, “the Russian”, in on my plan; with just 45min before our dinner reservation we would get fitted for ridiculous suits (and I should be careful calling them that, I’m told they are wedding groom suits), surprise our group, and crash the Armenian Club with our new fabulous bling……and that’s exactly what we did.

But it was the following day when things really got ridiculous. Most of the group split up, many flying home, but the three of us with suits were traveling overland to cross the border into Armenia on our Young Pioneer Tours research trip for next year’s Armenia/Nagorno Karabach Iran trip extension. We did 11 hours in a mini bus to the Armenian border in our suits, crashing dusty truck stops and leaving locals slack jawed in disbelief in our wake. A dare had been put out there that we wouldn’t have the balls to cross the Iranian border in our suits, of course we did, although there were plenty of dirty looks shown our way by the police and customs officials – they kept us waiting a good hour giving us plenty of time to consider our stupidity, but in the end our exit stamps were issued.

The Iranian soldiers at the final check point had a better sense of humor and just laughed at us during their document check and we were finally released to make the cold and lonely walk over the bridge into Armenia. The Armenians greeted us kindly, and despite some problems with our electronic visas, professionally worked to sort everything out. After an hour wait our passports were handed over to us and the young border official offered us a “welcome to Europe” and then with a sly smile, “so…. what the hell is up with those suits?”

Iran Suits in Tehran

At the Armenian Club in our suits.

Buying Iranian Suits

In my Tehran suit shop.


Official DPRK Spring 2012 Video

Thanks to Cyrus Kirkpatrick  who put together this video from our Spring 2012 DPRK trip. 


North Korean Hairstyling

North Korean beauty and fashion has been in the news lately, apparently the western educated new young leader Kim Jung-un has recently allowed women to wear earrings, platform heels, and pants in an effort to maintain popularity with the nation’s youth.

In a somewhat related article koreaBANG examines the North Korean hairstyling industry. My friends over at The North Korean Blog were stuck by the methods used by the state to select and nurture young candidates for careers in the hairdressing industry, and how it relates to insights we gleaned about the North Koran comedy profession:

In order to obtain the qualifications to become a hairdresser, those who receive recommendations as middle school graduates or from other workplaces are trained through education at a hairdressing or beauty school in each town or district more than once per year, and in September of every year they even hold a competition for the north’s most skilled beauty salon, ‘Nationwide Hairdressers’ and Beauticians’ Competition’ in Pyongyang.

The koreaBANG article had me reminiscing about the afternoon we shared at the Hamhung flower park and pavilion along with couples on their wedding day. Deemed an auspicious day for tying the knot, the park was filled with newlywed couples having their formal pictures taken. Many of the women were dressed in their finest chosŏn-ot and had their hair done up in elaborate, yet tasteful, styles. We were more than welcome to take pictures of the couples and our presence actually created a bit of a sensation, North Korean wedding photographers snuck around to try to candidly fit us in their shots, and a few families actually thrust flowers in our hands and had us pose with the newlyweds!

Brides and their hairstyles in Hamhung flower park – all photos by Joseph A Ferris II

North Korean Wedding Party Hamhung

North Korean Wedding Party

North Korean Wedding Party

North Korean Wedding Party

Hamhung Bride North Korea

North Korean Bride

North Korean Wedding Party

North Korean Wedding Party

North Korean Wedding Party


Return of the Pyongyang Traffic Girls – Picture Post

Brought back from their Sept. 2010 retirement, these April 2012 photos posted below show Pyongyang traffic girls performing their classic signal direction routine - photos by Joseph A Ferris III

Pyongyang Traffic Girl

From a previous post:  To our delight, the traffic girls of Pyongyang were brought out of retirement to help deal with the massive traffic congestion, and perhaps to add a little more color to the city for ’Eternal President’ Kim Il Sung’s 100th year birthday celebrations.

On my first visit (summer 2011) we had been saddened to learn that the girls had been replaced by a modern traffic light system. They could still be seen on occasion, running roadside signal lamp switches, working road construction sights, or directing traffic during the frequent power outages, but we missed their famous directing routines performed at the main city intersections. I’m happy to report that this April they were back directing traffic throughout Pyongyang, and although I have no idea how long this will last, I got some great pics during this special opportunity and will be sure to have a follow-up post sharing the best of them! 

This is the follow-up picture post with those promised photos posted below!

Pyongyang Traffic Girl

Pyongyang Traffic Girl

Remaining photos show the Pyongyang traffic girls performing their normal post retirement duties: cross walk safety overloading and manual light phasing – all from April 2012.

Pyongyang, North Korea Traffic Girl

Pyongyang Traffic Girl

Pyongyang Traffic Girl

Pyongyang Traffic Girls

Pyongyang Traffic Girls

Pyongyang Traffic Girl

Pyongyang Traffic Girl

Pyongyang Traffic Girl

Pyongyang Traffic Girl

Pyongyang Traffic Girl


Pyongyang Fashion

Pyongyang Street Scene

Street scene at the Korean Workers’ Party Monument – photo by Joseph A Ferris III


Pyongyang Traffic Girls Return!

Pyongyang, North Korea Traffic Girl

Pyongyang Traffic Girl – photo by Joseph A Ferris III

To our delight, the traffic girls of Pyongyang were brought out of retirement to help deal with the massive traffic congestion, and perhaps to add a little more color to the city for ‘Eternal President’ Kim Il Sung’s 100th year birthday celebrations.

On my first visit (summer 2011) we had been saddened to learn that the girls had been replaced by a modern traffic light system. They could still be seen on occasion, running roadside signal lamp switches, working road construction sights, or directing traffic during the frequent power outages, but we missed their famous directing routines performed at the main city intersections. I’m happy to report that this April they were back directing traffic throughout Pyongyang, and although I have no idea how long this will last, I got some great pics during this special opportunity and will be sure to have a follow-up post sharing the best of them!


The New Kim Il-sung/Kim Jong-il Badge

New Kim Il-sung/Kim Jong-il Badge

The double Kim badge is the latest in North Korean fashion – photo by Joseph A Ferris III


Beauty and Grace at the Arirang Mass Games

It’s not all about high kicking sexy military girls and mass flip card human mosaics at the North Korean Arirang Mass Games; experience the more delicate side of the games with the following set of photos showcasing the beauty and grace of North Korean women in their traditional Korean chosŏn-ot dresses.

Photos by Joseph A Ferris III

Arirang Mass Games - North Korea

Arirang Mass Games - North Korea

Arirang Mass Games - North Korea

Arirang Mass Games - North Korea

Arirang Mass Games - North Korea

Arirang Mass Games North Korea

Arirang Mass Games - North Korea

Arirang Mass Games - North Korea

Arirang Mass Games - North Korea


Traffic Girl Style

A peek at the details of the Pyongyang traffic girl uniform.

On the Streets of Pyongyang, DPRK

More Pyongyang traffic girl photos below – all from our 20 min. escorted walk in Pyongyang.

On the Streets of Pyongyang, DPRK

On the Streets of Pyongyang, DPRK

On the Streets of Pyongyang, DPRK


Hello Kitty in North Korea

Young boy in Pyongyang, North Korea with Hello Kitty bag and his sister’s socks!

Hello Kitty North Korea