When it comes to North Korea it is almost impossible to tell the difference between truth and rumor. And, you know, the reclusive country really has to shoulder some of the blame here–it’s hard to do fact checking when your subject responds to questions with poorly aimed missile launches!
However, when news broke last week that Pyongyang was now requiring all male university students to cut their hair like Kim Jong-un, we couldn’t stop an eyebrow from rising and thinking, “Wait, really?” As for whether or not it’s true, well, we think we have a solid answer…or as close to a solid answer as you can get when it comes to North Korea.
Last week Radio Free Asia reported that all male university students in North Korea would now be required to cut their hair to match their current dear leader Kim Jong-un. The story was picked up by the BBC (who usually has excellent taste in picking sources), helping spread the word of more North Korean madness in the West.
And, let’s be honest here, when we first heard the story, our reactions were mixed. On the one hand, it’s hard to be surprised by anything the North Korean government does–if a story broke that North Korea was now forcing all of its citizens to house and feed monkeys, our first reaction would probably be, “Oh, sure, why not? Better than camels. They spit.”
On the other hand, while North Korea does have rules regarding hair length and long hair is discouraged, and a citizen with unkempt hair might get written up for it but no one is going to get thrown in a work camp for it. As a source told NKNews.org, “[T]hey can use this infraction as a theme or point of focus in one of the mandated self-criticism sessions that each North Korean is required to take part in.”
So, all in all, this is a crazy story, but it’s not necessarily unbelievably crazy. But is it true?
▼Needs a haircut. Gets one in North Korea!
Well, we’re leaning very heavily towards “probably not.” It’s important to remember that the source that broke the news, Radio Free Asia, is not the most impartial organization. They receive funding from the United States government to broadcast news to people who might not otherwise have access to “free and open” news–which is great! We don’t want to cast aspersions on their mission, but the fact remains that they have, in the past, been accused of being propagandistic…by a member of the US government. So, all in all, it’s probably important to take their reportage with a grain of salt.
And then, of course, NKNews.org has cast a ton of serious suspicion on the whole episode by compiling reports from outsiders who regularly travel to North Korea or work with North Koreans. While some of the men these outsiders saw certainly did have the leader’s hairstyle, they emphasized that this wasn’t really anything new–and there didn’t seem to be an increase in the number of guys with the hair style. In fact, one source NKNews.org talked to suggested that North Korea has been relaxing rules on fashion since Kim Jong-un’s take over. Though we’re guessing that it might be a few years before the mullet makes an appearance in Pyongyang.
▼You know what, if it prevents this from ever happening again,
we’re okay with everyone rocking the Kim cut.
While North Korea certainly does have a, uh, “wacky” reputation, let’s try to remember that it’s not all bad in the country. You just have look at the empty plate as full of potential!
[ Read in Japanese ]