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Is N. Korea's first lady sporting a handbag worth average worker's annual salary?

KCNA via Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his wife Ri Sol Ju visit a sub-unit of the North Korean army in this undated photo released by the North's official KCNA on Tuesday.

Ri So Ju, the new bride of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, has been photographed with her husband sporting what appears to be a Christian Dior handbag that retails in South Korea for around the average annual income of a North Korean worker.

A photograph originally carried by North Korean state media shows Ri seated next to Kim at a public event with military officials all around them. Perched on the seat next to her is a small bag known as a clutch, bearing the luxury brand's distinctive "D" metal tag.


The New York Times, Britain's Daily Telegraph and other Western outlets cited South Korean news agencies as saying the bag was on sale in luxury boutiques in the South Korean capital Seoul for about $1,600, which was roughly equivalent to the average annual income of a worker in the North.

The bag was identified as resembling a Lady Dior Large Clutch, featuring "richly quilted lambskin, (and) finished with the signature Dior charm logo in silvertone."

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In the photo, Kim was dressed in his customary dark Mao-style suit, which apparently is intended to show his respect for austerity and simplicity.

South Korean media also reported that Ri looked like she was possibly in the early stages of pregnancy, the Times said.

Disconnect
But the photo of Ri with a pricey handbag underlined the apparent disconnect between North Korea's rulers and the country's average citizens.

North Korea invests heavily in its military but is one of the world's most impoverished countries. Its economy is one of the most centrally-directed and least open in the world.

KCNA via Reuters

A close-up of the bag next to Ri Sol Ju appears to show that it is a pricey clutch from the luxury brand Christian Dior.

The country suffered a famine in the 1990s that killed an estimated million people and has continued to endure severe problems: in June, the United Nations warned that two-thirds of North Korea's 24 million people faced chronic food shortages.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is apparently a married man now that state media announced the leader toured an amusement park with his "wife, comrade Ri Sol Ju." NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.

On Thursday, a U.N. official said recent flooding of North Korean farmlands, which killed at least 200 people, would have a detrimental impact on the country's food production.

North Korean leader Kim gets married, tours amusement park, state TV says

Reuters also quoted Claudia von Roehl, the U.N. World Food Program's representative in North Korea, as saying "we should always be aware there is a very chronic and severe problem in the nutrition of the population and in particular the very monotonous diet which basically is composed of maize and rice, carbohydrates, and lacking very significantly in proteins and fats." 

'Mystery woman' stirs talk of changing times in North Korea

David Guttenfelder / AP

Take a journey inside North Korea.

Kim took power in North Korea in December 2011 after the death of his father Kim Jong Il.

State news outlets publicly announced last month that the younger Kim, who is believed to be in his late 20s, had married Ri.

NBC News' Daniel Strieff and Reuters contributed to this report.

 

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