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North Korea: Edgier band kicks conservative one to curb (VIDEO)

Priyanka Boghani and Geoffrey CainGlobalPost.com

SEOUL, South Korea – The Mansudae Art Troupe was one of the most famous performance groups in conservative, strictly-censored and propaganda-filled North Korea.

From 1969, "their raison d’être was mostly to sing and dance gracefully in a manner that glorified the leader and the state, or to re-enact bits of Korean history and myth in traditional, tea-cosy shaped hanbok," wrote NK News.org.

But recently, the Moranbong Band seems to have stolen the limelight with an edgier sound — and significantly shorter hemlines.

GlobalPost's senior correspondent in Seoul, Geoffrey Cain, noted that the new band's popularity — and the change in acceptable fashion trends — could be due in part to "the influence of Kim Jong Un, who went to high school in Switzerland."

What's the big deal about a little peek of knee?

As The New York Times noted in July last year, veteran North Korea observers were using the country's hemlines as a way to gain insight on the new leader of the famously reclusive country, Kim Jong Un.

Photos of women wearing miniskirts and heels in Pyongyang marked "a stunning change from the years when Western wear was mostly shunned in favor of billowy traditional dresses or drab Mao-style work uniforms," said The Times.

The emergence of Moranbong Band seems in line with the earlier trend.

However, Cain said, "Let's remember these musicians and dancers are Workers' Party favorites, and would perhaps fit into the tiny Pyongyang middle and affluent classes. They've gone through stringent training and their families come from revolutionary backgrounds that gave them the okay."

He added, "Even just living in Pyongyang is a privilege. The capital is usually reserved for the descendants of people who fought on the 'right' side of the anti-Japanese resistance and the Korean War."

North Korea's urban women, therefore, operate in a separate sphere. "That's a distinct group from the impoverished and near-famished countryside — I doubt you'd see a whole lot of miniskirts out there," Cain said.

"Among the privileged women of Pyongyang, cosmetic surgery and South Korean fashions have been in vogue for the past decade or so. The fact these girls are wearing sexy miniskirts is only the next step."

Watch Moranbong Band rock out to celebrate North Korea's satellite launch: