Monday, February 10, 2014

North Korea - All Hat, No Cattle

I am not the first to note that while North Korea is near the bottom of any concievable category of human accomplishment, they absolutely kick ass with respect to Silly Hats.  My charming spouse would be quick to point out that I - as the owner of more than one Fez - am being a bit hypocritical here, but by Marx's Luxuriant Beard! check these out:

I actually go fishing from time to time with a fellow who has been inside North Korea working for an international aid agency.  He tells me that it really does seem as awful as we imagine, so the usual explanation for the Big Hat fetish may well be true....generations of malnutrition has made the Norks rather short of stature.  An extra 10 inches of head gear can be a bit of "even up".

I suspect that the officers in that last photo all carefully adjust their hats so as to be just a smidge shorter than the current Dear Leader, whose name I always botch...Kim Dong Uno or some such.  The fellow in the back has misjudged, perhaps thinking the Dongster was going to be wearing his extra tall shoe inserts today.  No doubt he is working on the first draft of his Self Denunciation Speech.

But the peculiar sartorial sense of North Korea runs deeper than hats that make them look as if they are hiding enormous Socialist Brains.  It is a whole bizarre fashion statement.  To see it best you have to take in a few Pyongyang Parades.  They exist in some parallel universe that combines elements of the Nuremberg Rallies, Godzilla movies and Dr. Suess.

They do have a certain sense of style, although the level of firearms safety on display - check out the worried look on the middle soldier in the last photo - does not speak too highly of their military training.

The internet has some scary images of North Korean children on parade...

Quite likely the four bicycles and one tricked up Barbie Jeep that made up this parade were the entire stock available in North Korea.

Yes, they'll grow into bigger hats.

If you find the whole Hermit Kingdom thing as fascinating as I do, may I suggest The North Korea Leadership Blog.  Many, many opportunities to see stumpy guys in big hats inspecting fertilizer factories and so forth....

Oh, my...rockets AND Rockettes...


FrankC said...

In the picture of the men in black uniform, note that only the front rank have guns. The rear ranks have two grenades each.
What's that about?

Tacitus2 said...

I think the photo caption on that one indicated they were students. Expendable?

As to their equipment, pretty sure it is all props. Their firearms safety practices look rather minimal, lots of guns pointing at each other. And even dictators as entrenched as the Kims would have to figure that given enough soldiers going past the review stand there would have to eventually be one that has both a smidgeon of initiative and an uncle in a mass grave somewhere. Remember what happened to Anwar Sadat.

And speaking of "props", I did not embed the video of the event but it is available on YouTube. The high stepping lady soldiers had a degree of "jiggle" that communist made undergarments and a life of malnutrition could not possibly allow.

So, theater top to bottom. Pulling off this annual event is likely one of their top national priorities.


Tacitus2 said...

As this post has oddly acquired a lot of interest lately I thought a minor addition was in order. The North Korean military of course takes its cues from Russian sources. And in the Russian military tradition officers of full colonel rank and up were allowed to wear an extra large hat called a "papakha". Obviously the Norks are engaging in a little "grade inflation" and putting the big shot hats on officers of lesser rank.