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Monday 18 June 2018

What do Kim Jong Un’s suit, shoes and hairstyle tell us about him?

A look at the young North Korean leader’s appearance during the summit in Singapore.

Kim Jong Un (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Kim Jong Un (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

By Hyung-jin Kim

Kim Jong Un was clad in his favourite Mao-style suit, wore the same horn-rimmed glasses and maintained his trademark high-cut hairstyle when he exchanged historic handshakes with Donald Trump on Tuesday.

He did not carry a national lapel pin and wore heeled shoes.

Here is a closer look at the young North Korean leader’s appearance during the summit in Singapore.

MAO-STYLE SUIT

Media had speculated before the summit that Mr Kim may put on a suit and tie instead of his trademark dark button-up Mao-style suit.

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Kim Jong Un in his trademark Mao-style suit (Susan Walsh/AP)

He wore a silver-grey Western-style suit in January when he delivered a new year that expressed his intent of sending an Olympic delegation at the start of his charm offensive.

But the 34-year-old showed up in the same old communist uniform for the Singapore summit. Some observers say his outfit indicates he wants to maintain his country’s socialist identity though he is pushing to improve ties with the outside world.

BADGE

Mr Kim did not put on his jacket a lapel pin with images of his late father and grandfather who ruled successively before his inauguration in late 2011. He has occasionally appeared without them recently.

Every dutiful North Korean must wear them as part of a personality cult surrounding the Kim family.

Analysts say Kim’s no-badge appearance may reflect his push to open a new era by staying out of the shadows of his predecessors.

TALLER KIM

Mr Kim is about 5ft 8in, about 7in shorter than Mr Trump, according to media reports, but when the two stood together during Tuesday’s meeting, the difference in height was not that noticeable.

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Kim Jong Un’s shoes (Evan Vucci/AP)

South Korean media quickly speculated Mr Kim may have put on platform shoes or elevated shoe inserts. Photos from their signing ceremony showed him wearing black shoes with heels although it was not immediately known how high they were.

His short, pudgy father Kim Jong Il was reported to have favoured platform shoes and a bouffant hairstyle to appear taller.

HAIRSTYLE

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Kim Jong Un (Evan Vucci/AP)

Kim has a swept-back hairstyle with the sides and back shaved neatly, and experts say it is part of his efforts to model his appearance on his grandfather Kim Il Sung who founded North Korea in 1948.

Kim Jong Un also adopted his grandfather’s gestures and regular public speeches.

GLASSES

These days, Mr Kim often wears a pair of horn-rimmed glasses.

In March, TV footage showed him putting on his glasses to read South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s letter conveyed by visiting South Korean envoys, although he did not wear them when he met them.

South Korean media speculated Mr Kim’s sight may have deteriorated due to diabetes caused by obesity and he is probably short-sighted.

Press Association

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