“Peasant-Style Suits” and Other Things the Western Media Say

Kim Jong-un, leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), in a Zhongshan suit.

At the beginning of the new year, the New York times published an article regarding the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) leader Kim Jong-un wearing a Western-style suit during his New Year’s address. Of course, there is nothing wrong with reporting about his address, but the writers of the piece, Gerry Mullany and Vanessa Friedman, went on to state this:

“North Korea’s top leaders have been known for their drab, peasant-style outerwear, with Mr. Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il, favoring Mao-style jackets. But his son, in addition to ramping up his country’s weapons of mass destruction, appears intent on modernizing his country’s look, too.”

This passage, right near the beginning of the article, sets the usual tone for reporting on the DPRK and regularly the other states which the Unites States views as enemies. But let us focus on the first sentence of this passage.

The “Mao Suit” – “Peasant-Style”, or just Orientalism?

This notion that the “Mao suit” is “peasant-style” is incredibly far from the truth. As well, the dress is not even known as a “Mao suit” in either the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the so-called “Republic of China” (“ROC”), Taiwan.

The suit’s proper name and the one it is known by in the PRC is the “Zhongshan suit”. This comes from one of the different names of Dr. Sun Yat-sen (mostly known in the PRC as Sun Zhongshan (孫中山), the founding father of the Republic of China after the Qing dynasty fell. It was his idea to create the suit, which is intended to be Western-influenced and a reaction against the dress of the former Emperors. After Sun’s death, different portions of the suit were assigned meanings:

the symbolism of the Zhongshan suit.

It is rightly named after Sun Zhongshan, who sought to reunify China after what all sides in the Chinese Civil War called “the century of humiliation” at the hands of the world colonial powers of the time. Not only did Sun wear this suit, and not only Mao Zedong, but also Chiang Kai-shek, the leader of the Kuomintang after the death of Sun.

Chiang Kai-shek (left) and Mao Zedong (right) standing together wearing Zhongshan suits.

It is also interesting to note that the PRC tends to put up a portrait of Sun Yat-sen wearing the Zhongshan suit, whereas the Presidental Office of the so-called “ROC” has a portrait of Sun wearing a more Western-style suit. On top of that, the Revolutionary Committee of the ChineseKuomintang – a split away from Chiang Kai-shek’s faction and claimants to the true legacy of Sun Yat-sen – a political party in the PRC, has requested that the Zhongshan suit be officially recognised as a national dress.

Portrait of Sun Yat-sen in a Zhongshan suit.

Portrait of Sun Yat-sen as seen in the so-called “ROC” Presidential Office.

So why is this style of suit known as the “Mao suit” outside of China? Simply, because it was under Mao Zedong that the vast majority of the West gained exposure to it.

And it is in this exposure that Western media has equated it with “authoritarian” rulers. The British Broadcasting Corporation wrote:

The Mao suit, buried deep in the Western psyche, has also represented something more malignant. In the James Bond movies depraved supervillain Ernst Stavro Blofeld, craving world domination, dons a jacket in khaki with a Chinese collar based loosely on the Mao suit… the suit represents a blandly clad evil, where the mantle of power can all too easily become abused.

A symbol of national pride to the Chinese people thus represents “evil” to Western eyes. To Western eyes, the Zhongshan, with its smart and sophisticated look, is reduced to the attire of authoritarians who hate their beloved “freedom and democracy” and mocked as being the attire of “peasants”.

The Fake News Written About the DPRK

Let us bring this back to Kim Jong-un and the DPRK. The Western media typically demonises him and the DPRK. In the same New York Times article, they say of Kim:

“The soft tones of his outfit did not carry through to his message, in which he boasted of having “a nuclear button on the desk in my office.””

Of course, the Western media tends to ignore why Kim boasts of this button and of finally having a missile which can hit any point of the continental United States. The whole point of the DPRK’s nuclear weapons program is meant as a strict self-defence measure against the constant aggression by the United States. These are two countries which are still technically at war with each other. Despite the constant denunciations of the DPRK as “authoritarian” and an “isolated nation”, Western media over the past couple of years has surprisingly been writing about the central reason for the legitimately defensive way the DPRK acts towards the United States: The Korean War.

Despite still being tinged with bias towards the government of the DPRK, the Washington Post wrote this two years ago:

“The bombing was long, leisurely and merciless, even by the assessment of America’s own leaders. “Over a period of three years or so, we killed off — what — 20 percent of the population,” Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, told the Office of Air Force History in 1984. Dean Rusk, a supporter of the war and later secretary of state, said the United States bombed “everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another.” After running low on urban targets, U.S. bombers destroyed hydroelectric and irrigation dams in the later stages of the war, flooding farmland and destroying crops.”

If this is the case, why is it then that people in the West see a “crazy” and “unpredictable” nation hell-bent on destroying the world, when it is in actuality acting in a completely rational manner to the atrocities that were committed against its people? Far from being “unbiased” and “impartial”, Western media is merely an arm of the capitalist imperialist state to share its propaganda.

This is compounded by the fact that many news stories about the DPRK are in fact fabricated or grossly exaggerated, such as the infamous myth of Kim feeding his uncle to starving dogs as punishment, which was found out to be a post made by a Chinese satirist. The United Kingdom’s Guardian newspaper wrote an article about the reasons defectors from the DPRK often tell stories which then fall apart after some level of scrutiny.

So how should we deal with this? We in the Western world must stand with the DPRK against the lies we are told by our media outlets and to encourage the recent peace efforts made by both Kim Jong-un and his Republic of Korea counterpart Moon Jae-in. It is only the Korean people who can decide their destiny of peace and eventual reunification of the Korean Peninsula. That means steadfastly opposing the United States government phony interventions into their and the rest of the world’s affairs under the false pretext of them being “humanitarians”.


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