By Alice Wan
The smiling faces of the late North Korean Great Leader Kim Il-sung and Dear Leader Kim Jong-il are ubiquitous in propaganda posters and murals throughout the country. And now, their faces are frequently spotted pinned to every good citizen’s chest.
The red pins, or badges as they are called in North Korea, with portraits of Kim Il-Sung were first produced by the North Korean Propaganda and Agitation Department in 1970. All members of Korean Workers Party, according to Patricia K. Kummer’s “North Korea: Enchantment of the World,” must wear one at all times.
But now, ordinary North Koreans wear them too.
Photos by Jeff Chan
Wearing a larger flag-shaped badge with both leaders portraits pinned neatly on the upper left hand side of her black jacket, a North Korea tour guide said that she has more than 20 badges at home: one pinned to every jacket.
Though many wear the double page, some choose to wear the smaller circular red pin with only Kim Il-sung. No one wears only Kim Jong-il. And the face of the current leader, Kim Jong-un, is noticeably absent from all propaganda.
“These badges are not for sale,” said another North Korean tour guide. “The government awarded the badges to us.”
Not everyone wears them, noticeably farmers, street cleaners and small children.
“It’s simply because we don’t carry it when we have the chance of making it dirty,” the second tour guide said. “We usually take it off when we do hard work.”
The design of the badges do not symbolize anything, she said.
When asked the consequences of losing a badge, she makes a bewildered face. “We won’t lose it,” she said. “We have been wearing it since we were little kids.”