In any other country, anywhere else in the world, laws relating to haircuts either don’t exist or are generally ignored by the press. But in North Korea even the smallest thing seems to trigger a media storm. A seemingly unconfirmed, not translated story on an Asian news website (Radio Free Asia) has now been picked up by news outlets across the world, from the Washington Post to the Independent. They claim the male students in Pyongyang are, in a policy soon to be rolled out across all of Korea, being ‘advised’ to cut their hair in the style of Kim-Jong-Un.
The issue is that most North Korean experts seem to doubt its content. ‘I think we can add this to the long list of ridiculous news stories on North Korea,’ the Washington Post reported that Andray Abrahamian, Executive Director of Choson Exchange, a Singaporean non-profit providing training in business, economic policy and law to young North Koreans said, ‘Everybody had typical haircuts there last week when we were there for a Women in Business program.’
Other experts also seem in doubt and apparently recent visits to the Pyongyang show no difference in hairstyles being sported. Radio Free Asia claims however that while this may not be an official policy in North Korea it is being, ‘strongly advised’ by the Workers Party. They also claim of rumblings in Pyongyang over the hairstyles lack of suitability for all face shapes.
Kim-Jong-Un allegedly based his hair style on his grandfathers, in an effort to appear more like him as a leader. Since then however there haven’t seemed to be any moves towards further limitation of the 28 approved hairstyles (based on pictures taken in barber’s shops), 10 for men and 18 for women, although a campaign has been launched to encourage citizens to cut their hair short in support of socialist principles.
Women are also being encouraged to have shorter hair, like the first lady of Korea, Ri. She has been seen in public, sporting her new shorter hair, as well as some above the knee skirts, which are not being encouraged.
Overall the matter of unconfirmed and apparently unlikely reports of hair style rules in Korea seem to be unimportant but could it be more dangerous than that? Surely this apparent trivialisation of one of the world’s most brutal regimes is frivolous and ridiculous, particularly considering the very real problems being faced by political and other prisoners up and down the country. We cannot afford to ignore the atrocities being committed by this regime, however interesting the surface stories may seem.