North Korean Officials Accused of Indulging in Luxury Goods Amidst Pandemic
Kim Jong-un’s Visit to Russia Reveals High-ranking Women Carrying Expensive Brand Bags
During North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s recent visit to Russia, the extravagant consumption of luxury goods by high-ranking women accompanying him has sparked controversy. Among them, North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son-hee was seen carrying a rare Gucci bag, made of ostrich leather, valued at $10,000. Similarly, Kim Jong-un’s younger sister, Labor Party Vice Minister Kim Yo-jong, was spotted with a black ‘Lady Dior’ handbag, worth $7,000.
However, it was Vice Director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department of the Workers’ Party of Korea, Hyon Song-wol, who stood out from the group, carrying a seemingly cheap Chinese bag worth only $8. This stark difference in luxury consumption amidst the country’s struggles has drawn criticism.
Disparity in Living Standards
A recent UN report highlighted that more than 10 million North Korean residents are facing hunger and malnutrition during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This raises concerns about the stark disparity between the living standards of high-ranking North Korean officials and ordinary citizens.
North Korea has long been cracking down on high-priced foreign brand products, claiming that they are tools used by capitalist nations to undermine the country. However, the abundance of luxury goods carried by officials raises questions about these claims.
Luxury Lifestyle of North Korean Elite
Chairman Kim Jong-un himself has been seen flaunting a luxury Swiss brand watch on multiple occasions. Known for his affinity for Swiss watches, he often gifts Rolex and other extravagant items to high-ranking officials. Additionally, North Korea boasts dozens of luxury villas and indulges in activities such as sailing, jet skiing, horseback riding, and skiing from a young age.
Media reports have also revealed the interest of Chairman Kim’s wife, Ri Sol-ju, in foreign luxury brands. Her favorite watch is a Swiss Movado, and she has been seen carrying handbags and clutches from renowned brands like Chanel, Dior, Prada, and Gucci.
The demand for luxury goods in North Korea has been on the rise in recent years, extending beyond the privileged few to include emerging capitalists and even the general public. Although UN sanctions prohibit the export of luxury goods to North Korea, state-run stores in Pyongyang allegedly engage in the trade through the exchange of US dollars.
In a time when millions are suffering from hunger, the display of opulence by North Korean officials raises ethical questions about the fairness of their society and their commitment to addressing the needs of their people.
By Kim Yu-min
Kim Yeo-jeong ‘Dior’ Choi Seon-hee ‘Gucci’
Hyeonsongwol ‘Made in China’ won 10,000
▲ High-ranking women from North Korea who accompanied Kim Jong-un on his visit to Russia
North Korean Workers’ Party Vice Minister Kim Yo-jong (left), Foreign Minister Choe Son-hee (center), and Vice Foreign Minister Hyon Song-wol (right) carry luggage while accompanying North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on a visit to a fighter jet factory in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, Khabarovsk, Russia, on the 15th. Provided by Korean Central News Agency and NK News With the visit of North Korean State Affairs Commission Chairman Kim Jong-un to Russia, the consumption of luxury goods by high-ranking North Korean women is attracting attention. Except for Vice President Hyon Song-wol, who carried a 10,000 won Chinese bag, everyone mostly carried bags from expensive brands such as Dior and Gucci.
NK News, an American media specializing in North Korea, reported on the 18th (local time) that it had confirmed that the bag carrying North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son-hee in a photo taken by the North Korean Central News Agency on the 16th is a rare product of the expensive Italian brand Gucci.
The media explained that the bag that Foreign Minister Choi was carrying was made of ostrich leather and although it has now been discontinued, it is being traded for $10,000 (about 13.2 million won) on the Icelandic used goods trading website.
Chairman Kim’s younger sister, Labor Party Vice Minister Kim Yo-jong, was also seen holding a black ‘Lady Dior’ handbag from French luxury brand Christian Dior during this meeting. The bag is made of calf leather and is currently being sold for $7,000 (about 9.25 million won) on Christian Dior’s website.
On the other hand, Hyon Song-wol, Deputy Director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department of the Workers’ Party of Korea, was reported to have carried a handbag that appeared to be cheap in China. NK News explained that the bag is being sold for $8 (about 10,000 won) on a Chinese website.
North Korea has been cracking down on high-priced foreign brand products for several years, stating that they are “weapons that capitalist countries are trying to use to destroy North Korea.” NK News cited a UN report stating that more than 10 million North Korean residents are suffering from hunger and malnutrition during the COVID-19 pandemic, and noted that there is a stark difference in the living standards of North Korean officials and ordinary residents who have the highest position. ▲ Kim Joo-ae, the daughter of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was found wearing the products of the French luxury brand Christian Dior while observing the launch of an ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) on the 16th. Yonhap News, hold the Dior homepage
Kim Jong-un’s 10-year-old daughter also wears ‘Dior’
Chairman Kim Joo-ae’s 10-year-old daughter was also seen wearing a black coat believed to be a Dior product worth 2.4 million won while observing the test launch of the ‘Hwaseong-17’ last March.
Chairman Kim Jong-un has also been seen several times wearing a luxury Swiss brand watch on his wrist. Chairman Kim Jong-un wore an IWC ‘Portofino Automatic’ Swiss luxury watch at the launch site of the ‘Hwasong-17′ last year. The 16 million won watch worn by Chairman Kim Jong-un was also seized during a short-range ballistic missile inspection in July 2019, an inspection of a flood-damaged area in 2020, and a military parade celebrating the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party in the same year.
Chairman Kim, who spent his youth studying abroad in Bern, Switzerland, has an affinity for Swiss watches. He is known to often buy Rolex and other items as gifts for high-ranking officials, and is known to enjoy wearing Patek Philippe, Movado, and IWC, which cost over 200 million won. There are dozens of luxury villas throughout North Korea, and people have enjoyed luxury sports such as sailing, jet skiing, horseback riding, and skiing from a young age. They are familiar with luxury, such as high-end yachts worth about 10.5 billion won each, foreign cars, and handmade Italian suits.
Chinese online media Jing Daily reported that Chairman Kim’s wife Ri Sol-ju is also interested in foreign luxury brands. Ri Sol-ju’s favorite watch is the Swiss brand Movado, and she and Chairman Kim once wore it as a couple’s watch. She has been seen carrying handbags and clutches from brands such as Chanel, Dior, Prada, and Gucci, and prefers Tiffany for accessories ▲ Chairman Kim Jong-un.
Foreign media, including Chosun Central TV and the official website of IWC Schaffhausen, the New York Times (NYT), have reported that the demand for luxury goods in North Korea has been increasing rapidly for several years. In the past, it was limited to the royal family known as the ‘Baekdu bloodline’, but in recent years it has gradually expanded to include emerging capitalists and the general public. .
State-run stores in Pyongyang, North Korea, are said to be selling luxury goods, including luxury goods, by accepting US dollars from residents and exchanging North Korean earned money for them. UN Security Council Resolution 2270 on sanctions against North Korea prohibits the export of luxury goods to North Korea, but the Royal Family is known to have a separate organization that procures luxury clothing and food.
Correspondent Kim Yu-min
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