December 07, 2023

Why some North Korean soldiers have shiny, chrome-plated arms

Ceremonial weapons shed light on military culture arisen from decades of Songun

Nearly two decades of North Korea’s infamous Songun (Military First) policy and many more under a military-centered rule have given birth to a range of traditions and ceremonies that, despite their frequent appearance in North Korean state media, are often overlooked by the international press. The military culture that comprises these traditions and ceremonies has its own ceremonial objects, which are now often shown off by recipients in propaganda footage.

The objects in question – in the true spirit of Songun – are of course guns. More specifically, they are chrome-plated and lavishly engraved arms, which come in a wide variety of types depending on the rank and accomplishments of the recipients. And in most cases, these chrome-plated weapons were awarded personally to soldiers by whichever member of the Kim family was in charge at the time, during visits to various military units throughout the country.