March 01, 2021

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South Korean dramas and soap-operas are extremely popular in North Korea, having increased in circulation dramatically over the past decade.  Exposing Northerners to the liberal and colorful lifestyle of the South, these productions have been instrumental in shattering North Korea’s own propaganda about the Republic of Korea   At the same time, they have also begun influencing fashion and style in North Korea, with younger generations increasingly keen to emulate the looks of the South Korean celebrities.   Perhaps as a result of this dynamic, North Korean authorities have become increasingly eager to clamp down on anti-socialist influences, with hair-styles being the target of two interesting government initiatives in recent years.

Back in 2005, North Korean state TV launched a five part TV series entitled “Let us trim our hair in accordance with Socialist lifestyle” with the aim of promoting short hair among the male populace.  At the same time, a number of reports appeared in the North Korean press and radio, urging tidy hairstyles and appropriate clothing.  The TV show was particularly interesting by North Korean standards, sending out teams with hidden cameras to catch Pyongyangites who were falling foul of recommended hair-styles.  Upon confronting these individuals, the program makers dramatically went on to broadcast their full names, professions and addresses, in the hope of influencing viewers to stick with orthodoxy.  And if that wasn’t enough, the program even cited a number of absurd health reasons to not grow long hair – including the far-fetched idea that long hair would rob the brain of energy.  Men watching were told to keep their hair shorter than five centimeters, and to have it cut every fifteen days.  An exception was included for older men, who after fifty were told could grow their hair up to seven centimeters, presumably to help cover balding.