The girl, who is thought to be about 10 or 11 years old, was photographed by North Korean state media attending yet another missile launch with her father last week. This time it was a Hwasong-17, capable of reaching the U.S. mainland, that Pyongyang said it fired to demonstrate a “tough response posture” to ongoing U.S.-South Korea military drills.
It’s still cold in Pyongyang, so to keep warm Kim Ju Ae wore a black quilted jacket. South Korean broadcaster TV Chosun, noting the distinctive stitching on it, reported Wednesday that the jacket looked exactly like one being sold by French luxury fashion house Christian Dior.
It can’t be ascertained whether the jacket is real or a knockoff, but either way, it’s a bold choice in an impoverished nation that is, according to recent reports, on the brink of famine.
Both the 10- and 12-year-old sizes of the jacket retail for $2,800 in the United States, according to the fashion house’s website.
“The hooded down jacket honors House heritage with the iconic Cannage motif,” Dior says.
Cannage is the distinctive quilting made up of geometrical pattern of squares and diagonals that appears on many Dior products, most notably its bags. The pattern was inspired by the Napoleon III cane chairs in the Dior atelier.
“Crafted in black waterproof velvet, it is filled with down and feathers,” the Dior website continues. “Its flared silhouette features a zip closure and two piped side pockets adding optimal functionality. The hooded down jacket brings a refined finishing touch to a range of outfits.”
Asia is a huge market for fashion houses, and Dior has sought to capitalize on world-famous Koreans by making several K-pop stars — including Jimin from BTS and Blackpink’s Jisoo — brand ambassadors.
But Dior was probably not counting on free advertising from a girl who’s apparently being groomed to succeed her father as totalitarian leader of North Korea. The fashion house has been asked for comment.
Kim Ju Ae’s possessions have offered insights into her affluent life as part of North Korea’s royal family. Last month, her white horse was presented alongside a cavalry unit at a military parade in the North Korean capital. The horse was described as “the beloved daughter’s favorite horse,” by North Korean state media.
For hobbies, the “first daughter” engages in activities such as riding, skiing and swimming, according to a briefing by Seoul’s spy agency earlier this month.
Kim Ju Ae has “good horse-riding skills that satisfied Kim Jong Un,” said Yoo Sang-bum, a South Korean lawmaker who attended the briefing. She has never been enrolled at a public school and is home-schooled in Pyongyang, according to Yoo.
Kim Ju Ae’s mother, Ri Sol Ju, is known for her taste in luxury. Photos have showed her carrying purses that look exactly like those produced by designer brands like Chanel and Christian Dior. Such conspicuous consumption by the ruling family is at odds with North Korea’s socialist ideology and officially banned under United Nations sanctions, but North Korea’s elite continue to defy the sanctions, experts say.
“Outsiders tend to think fashion in North Korea is frumpy and outdated, but North Korea’s elite are up to date with new style trends,” said Jeong Eun-lee, a researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul. “They share photos of stylish looks via smartphone and shop at boutiques in Pyongyang.”
Kim family’s lifestyle strikes a sharp contrast with worsening food shortages affecting ordinary people in North Korea.
The country’s state-control agricultural program has repeatedly failed to supply enough food for North Korea’s population of 26 million. Food security in the country worsened due to natural disasters and a prolonged border lockdown since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Reports of deaths from starvation recently emerged from parts of North Korea, according to South Korea’s Unification Ministry.