September 24, 2022

A new crackdown? North Korea’s fashion police are making a comeback

A campaign against "Anti-Socialist Activities" suggests any reforms are taking place on shaky ground

Beginning early last year, foreign visitors to Pyongyang and other major North Korean cities began to frequently encounter a very peculiar picture – even though, admittedly, only a tiny fraction of them could only fully appreciate the meaning of what they were seeing.

At major crossroads in Pyongyang, as well as some other major cities, one could frequently notice groups of two or three women, all dressed in some kind of uniform. This outfit is generally based on the traditional Korean dress, known in South Korea as the "hanbok," but of a rather unusual and formal color scheme: long black skirts and white blouses. At least one of these women is equipped with a large Chinese-made plastic whistle, and she also might keep a large book of instruction under her arm.