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With its plush leather quilting and signature 'D'-shaped silver tags, a Christian Dior handbag stands for all that is most luxurious about Western culture. So when North Korea's new first lady was pictured with what looked like a Dior evening pouch, eyebrows shot up over the border in South Korea and across the rest of the world. The country of 24 million has suffered severe food shortages since a famine in the mid-1990s killed hundreds of thousands, but the state's totalitarian rulers have copious personal wealth and are said to live a lavish lifestyle.
Glamorous twenty-something Ri Sol-Ju has sparked intense media interest since she was unveiled as the wife of 28-year-old Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un in July this year. A former pop singer, the attractive young woman has been photographed in a range of chic yet conservative outfits which recall the ladylike style of Kate Middleton or Carla Bruni. The picture which reveals her costly bag was released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency, and was taken as the leader and his wife visited a unit of the Korean People's Army.
Ri Sol-Ju's taste - and presumably, budget - for shift dresses contrasts sharply with the everyday dress of her countrywomen, which tends to reflect their position in society. While some women favour a traditional kimono-style garment called the Choson-ot, many wear either military uniforms or drab office-wear reminiscent of British fashion in the 1990s.