February 25, 2024

Behind the evolution of North Korea’s leadership loyalty badges

Every North Korean is required to wear one, but where did they come from and how did it all start?

SEOUL — Despite ideological promises, the state is no longer able to provide much in North Korea; except, that is, the leadership loyalty badge that is the required accessory for most—if not all—North Koreans.

Originally devised by top officials to out-do each other’s loyalty to Kim Il Sung, they are a stark reminder when meeting North Koreans of the distinctly different ideological and political sphere within which they live. Like all good propaganda, they are omnipresent in North Korea. Similarly, however, their ideological impact can be limited: