North Korea’s “Dear Leader” opens umbrella boom

August 14, 2009

Kim Jong-il may be at the forefront of a fashion trend that has just hit the streets of Pyongyang: Using oversized umbrellas as parasols.

The North Korean leader started travelling this year with a soldier whose job is to carry a large black umbrella to protect him from the sun.

Kim, called the “Dear Leader” by his state’s official media, has been trailed by his umbrella bearer on many occasions since he returned to the public scene earlier this year after suffering a suspected stroke a year ago.

The iconic traffic ladies of Pyongyang have been swept up in the trend inspired by Kim.

Visitors to the North Korean capital have a hard time forgetting the young women who stand at major intersections in uniforms and direct the few cars on the road with gestures that seem inspired by military drill sergeants and professional boxers. Pyongyang does not have traffic lights. One of the few state secrets that residents of the North Korean capital will share with foreign visitors is that these women are often selected for their looks.

It appears Kim, who is also greatly concerned about their access to make-up, was behind the umbrella proliferation:
“The traffic controllers are moved by the warm affection shown for them by General Secretary Kim Jong-il who saw to it that the platforms with umbrellas are being set up this time after raincoats, rain boots, sunglasses, gloves and cosmetics as well as seasonal uniforms were provided to them,” the North’s official KCNA news agency said on Thursday.

(PIcture at top: North Korean leader Kim Jong-il visits the Yeonsa district revolution battlefield at an undisclosed place in North Korea, in an undated photo released by North Korea’s official KCNA news agency May 24, 2009. The photo of the traffic policewoman was released on August 13, 2009.)


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Seems like a great way to create jobs anyway. You wouldn’t need a red light camera if there was someone there to write down license plates who don’t obey their arm waving.

Posted by Jason | Report as abusive

Holding that umbrella must be the most terrifying job in the world. From an American I guess… Maybe it’s an honor in their country? I just imagine my arm getting tired while I think about how many years I’ll spend in a dungeon if this character gets one drop of rain on him.

Posted by joe barry | Report as abusive

I am surprised that he chose such a somber color. Didn’t he used to be a style-ista?

Posted by bobzaguy | Report as abusive

@ joe barry – you’re not frightened enough – if you let the umbrella slip you might not make it to jail.

Posted by stuart munro | Report as abusive

[…] a post on its Global News blog last week, Reuters took a more glass-half-empty view of the same, noting: Visitors to the North Korean capital have a hard time forgetting the young […]

Posted by The Umbrellas of Pyongyang – The Lede Blog – | Report as abusive