Did North Korea Ban Skinny Jeans as a Symbol of ‘Capitalistic Lifestyle’? | Snopes.com


North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un has vowed to crack down on “anti-socialist” elements at home amid international fears that the country is continuing to build its nuclear arsenal. According to a Guardian report, this crackdown includes a ban on skinny jeans, among other fashion trends inspired by so-called “Western” culture.

The Guardian report said this ban occurred after Rodong Sinmum, the official newspaper of the North Korean government, had published an article expressing concern about how young people are increasingly embracing Western fashion trends.

“History teaches us a crucial lesson that a country can become vulnerable and eventually collapse like a damp wall regardless of its economic and defense power if we do not hold on to our own lifestyle,” the official newspaper said. “We must be wary of even the slightest sign of the capitalist lifestyle and fight to get rid of them.”

According to South Korean broadcaster Yonhap news agency, in December 2020, North Korea toughened punishments for possession of videos made in South Korea.

The report of the ban on skinny jeans appears to be sourced from Rodong Sinmum, though incidents of a crackdown on jeans and other fashion trends have been reported since mid-2020. Along with jeans, mullets, spiky and dyed hair are no longer authorized, according to documents published by the Socialist Patriotic Youth League, a youth organization under the control of the government, according to the Guardian story.

In August 2020, the Daily NK—a paper based in Seoul that reports on North Korea through a network of North Korean informants—reported that North Korean authorities, including the provincial Youth League in South Pyongan province, were cracking down on “dyed hair, earrings, jeans and clothing with foreign lettering.” According to the report, authorities see wearing tight clothing as part of the “yellow wind of capitalism” and have labeled such conduct “anti-socialist behavior.”

We have been unable to find the original North Korean source detailing the specific nationwide ban on skinny jeans, relying instead on the Guardian report, and older reporting from South Korean media. Like many things out of North Korea, such reports rely on second-hand sources. As such we rate this “Unproven.” We will update this rating if we receive pertinent information. 

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