- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 26, 2005

KAESONG, North Korea — Kim Tae-hee, one of South Korea’s most popular actresses, paraded before hundreds of guests from North and South Korea.

In the first show of Western fashion in the North, Miss Kim and 20 other South Korean models strutted down the catwalk yesterday in clothes made by North Koreans working at the inter-Korean industrial park in the ancient North Korean city of Kaesong.

The room vibrated with the sounds of dance music and dazzling stage lighting as models showed off glittering denim miniskirts, breezy sleeveless blouses, colorful shirts and slender high heels.

“I am much excited and pleased that I am here to show off clothes made by North Koreans. I never thought of this,” Miss Kim said after the 25-minute display that showcased creations of Shinwon Co., a South Korean apparel maker that runs a factory in the Kaesong industrial complex.

Miss Kim is among about 500 South Koreans who crossed the heavily fortified border into North Korea yesterday for the fashion show organized by South Koreans.

It was the second fashion show in North Korea, which had a small event in Pyongyang to present the region’s traditional clothing several years ago, said North Koreans who attended the Shinwon show. But the country never had a show for Western fashion.

“I hope this show [helps] to promote our business project in North Korea,” said Park Sung-chul, president of the textile company, which staged the fashion show to mark the opening of its production line in the fledgling industrial park. Shinwon is the first South Korean company to deliver clothes made at the Kaesong complex.

But North Koreans who attended the show raised their eyebrows, saying they were disgusted by the “foreign-influenced” event. “I was much dizzied. Music is so loud, and lighting is too strong,” said a North Korean official involved in the Kaesong special zone.

“There is nothing with our own style in this exhibition, which is overwhelmed by foreign culture,” said the official, who wore a dark suit with a lapel badge depicting late North Korean leader Kim Il-sung.

Seven North Korean officials attended the show.

Workers on the first floor turned up the volume of their own music — extolling the virtues of living in a communist state — to offset pounding pop music from the showroom on the floor above.

A total of 281 North Koreans are employed at the factory’s five production lines. They are managed by seven Shinwon officials who take a daily shuttle bus through the border.

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