A year after the demise of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il, the authoritarian state pays tribute to… his parka.
“With ardent yearning for Kim Jong Il… the Korean people warmly look back again upon his noble life,” a radio host of the government-run Voice of Korea, formerly Radio Pyongyang, reads. “They are reminded of the parka worn by him till the last period of his life from the time of the arduous march in the latter half of the 1990s.”
Kim Jong Il inherited the reins of the totalitarian East Asian country from his father Kim Il Sung in 1994. He then went on to spend a good chunk of his 17-year of his rule touring the country giving “field guidance” — i.e. looking at things — wearing an overall-style tunic with matching trousers in fetching shades of khaki, grey or black. Come wintertime, the dictator wore a signature shapeless gray parka with matching gloves. The parka, as much as his zip-up jumper, has become instantly identifiable with the late Dear leader, who died last year — passing the reins, in turn, to his son Kim Jong Un.
(PHOTOS: The Busy Life of Kim Jong Il)
North Korean media, like the national daily Rodong Sinmun, argued that the parka was a quintessential part of the whole Kim package. “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.”
Kim chose to wear the hideous parka to remind himself of “the arduous march” of his rule, Voice of Korea said recently, as North Korea prepares to mark a year since the former leader’s death. “He wore the parka for more than 10 years to inspect forefronts with iron will and superhuman energy,” the presenter reads — awfully parsimonious for someone who reportedly spent up to $800,000 a year on fine liquors, according to his supplier.
Kim Jong Un has taken over where his father left off, and is now touring the country giving his share of field guidance (again: looking at things) — although he’s swapped the iconic parka for an overcoat. But the Dear Leader’s parka is not forgotten. As “a symbol of Kim Jong Il’s patriotism,” said the broadcaster, it “will be remembered forever by the Korean people.”