North Koreans have a new fashion accessory — Kim Jong Un lapel pins. Here's what they mean for the supreme leader's legacy.

  • North Korean officials have been seen wearing lapel pins featuring their leader Kim Jong Un.

  • Experts say the new pins reflect Kim's efforts to establish a distinct, lasting legacy.

  • North Koreans have long been required to wear pins over their hearts, the Associated Press reported.

North Korean officials have been spotted wearing lapel pins featuring the image of the country's supreme leader, Kim Jong Un.

North Korean state media recently released photos showing officials wearing the pins at a Workers' Party meeting.

The country's citizens have long been required to wear pins over their hearts, but these have typically featured images of Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea, or Kim Jong Il, his son and Kim Jong Un's father, the Associated Press reported.

A pin on a North Korean state cameraman showing Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.
A pin on a North Korean state cameraman showing Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.REUTERS/Jorge Silva/Pool

The new pins are likely an effort by Kim Jong Un to elevate his so-called "cult of personality" to that of his predecessors.

"Kim Jong Un wants to ensure he's not seen simply as a carbon copy of his grandfather and his father," Edward Howell, an expert on North Korea's domestic and foreign policy, told Business Insider.

"One of the things that Kim Jong Un has shown more explicitly in recent years is his desire to stamp his own legacy, put his own mark on North Korea in a way that differentiates his leadership," Howell said, adding that the pins showed "quite clearly that Kim wants to cement his legacy."

While Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il have been immortalized by national holidays marking their birthdays, statues, and portraits across North Korea, relatively few images featuring Kim Jong Un have been found in public since he came to power in 2011.

But the younger Kim has made a number of moves in recent years to change this, with his portrait seen up alongside those of his predecessors at a Workers' Party training school in May.

Kim also released a new propaganda song earlier this year, which experts said was a calculated effort to spread state propaganda to the masses.

The tune, called "Friendly Father," portrays Kim as a "father figure," much like his predecessors.

Peter Moody, a North Korea analyst at Sungkyunkwan University, told The Telegraph that the song was an attempt to "elevate his status and stature" to their level, noting that Kim had previously had to rely on their reputations to "indicate his legitimacy to be the successor."

North Korea, Kim, and Putin

North Korea was founded in 1948 under Kim Il Sung as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Its population of roughly 26 million people is cut off from much of the world, largely due to the country's guiding principle of "Juche," or self-reliance — the idea that North Korea should be able to function independently.

But North Koreans face severe economic difficulties, with much of the population struggling with high poverty levels and food shortages.

Many have sought to flee to neighboring South Korea. At the end of 2022, the number of North Korean defectors living in South Korea was 33,752, according to South Korea's unification ministry.

In recent years, the country's current leader, Kim Jong Un, has sought to develop increasingly strong ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

North Korea is believed to have supplied a number of munitions to Moscow to aid its invasion of Ukraine in return for economic aid and assistance with military technologies.

"We know that relations between Moscow and Pyongyang have been upgraded considerably," Howell told BI.

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