After hearing the news that Bill Clinton had brokered the release of the two American journalists imprisoned in North Korea, I headed straight to the website of the Korean Central News Agency of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to see what the government had to say about the whole affair. Sadly, there’s no story up yet about the journalists, although I did learn that Pyongyang University of Construction and Building-Materials Industry has recently developed a profitable stone-washing agent with efficiency of over 90 percent whose spent liquor does not hurt the environment. The next most informative article—one that builds on a recent theme of fashion criticism emerging from the DPRK—was titled “President Wears Cotton-padded Winter-shoes in Summer.” It’s not so much a news story as it is an account of a touching shoe inspection performed in 1951 by former leader Kim Il Sung:
Pyongyang, August 3 (KCNA) — On an August day of Juche 40 (1951) President Kim Il Sung examined cotton-padded military winter-shoes.
After watching shoes with care from the height of rubber rim to thickness of shoe-sole, he instructed an official that he should carry a pair of shoes with him when backing.
Next day after he came back to the Supreme Command, he came out, putting on the cotton-padded shoes.
Officials dubiously looked at him wearing the shoes unfit for hot summer.
After having put on the shoes for a week and more, he told officials that, while wearing the shoes for several days, he felt they were good as they were warm and comfortable for feet. What worries myself, he added, is that feet of soldiers might be frozen as the shoes became wet easily.
Pointing to the rubber rim of the shoes he told in an anxious tone that the height of the rim was so low that the shoes got wet like this even in some mud and the wet shoes might make feet of soldiers frozen in winter though cotton was padded.
At last the officials realized why the President wore the shoes in summer.
After an interval, the President earnestly instructed them that the height of rubber should be raised higher.
The officials were deeply moved by him who worried himself so much about the problem of military winter-shoes in the height of the hard-fought war, not a problem of military operation.