Wednesday, June 24, 2009

N Korea wages war on long hair

North Korean Television campaign on hair
Men's hairstyles reflect their 'ideological spirit'

North Korea has launched an intensive media assault on its latest arch enemy - the wrong haircut.

A campaign exhorting men to get a proper short-back-and-sides has been aired by state-run Pyongyang television.

The series is entitled Let us trim our hair in accordance with Socialist lifestyle.

While the campaign has been carried out primarily on television, reports have appeared in North Korean press and radio, urging tidy hairstyles and proper attire.

It is the strongest media campaign against men's sloppy appearances mounted in the reclusive and impoverished Communist state in recent years.

The propaganda drive on grooming standards has gone a stage further than previous attempts. This time television identifies specific individuals deemed too shoddy.

Crew cut

Pyongyang television started the campaign last autumn with a five-part series in its regular TV Common Sense programme.

How the propaganda campaign looks on Pyongyang television

Stressing hygiene and health, it showed various state-approved short hairstyles including the "flat-top crew cut," "middle hairstyle," "low hairstyle," and "high hairstyle" - variations from one to five centimetres in length.

The programme allowed men aged over 50 seven centimetres of upper hair to cover balding.

It stressed the "negative effects" of long hair on "human intelligence development", noting that long hair "consumes a great deal of nutrition" and could thus rob the brain of energy.

Men should get a haircut every 15 days, it recommended.

Named and shamed

A second, and unprecedented, TV series this winter showed hidden-camera style video of "long-haired" men in various locations throughout Pyongyang.

Hair is a very important issue that shows the people's cultural standards and mental and moral state

Minju Choson newspaper

In a break with North Korean TV's usual approach, the programme gave their names and addresses, and challenged the fashion victims directly over their appearance.

The North Korean media normally reserves the reporting of names of its citizens to exemplary individuals who show high communist virtues.

The series was shot at various public locations - on the street, at a sports stadium, a barbershop, a bus stop, a restaurant, a department store.

Some unruly-haired pedestrians or customers captured on camera "meanly ran away", the programme said, while others made excuses about being too busy to get a trim.

Television newsreels such as "Employees of Pyongyang Textile Plant keep their hairstyle and dressing neat and tidy" and "Hairdressers at Ch'anggwangwo'n manage men's hair according to the demands of the military-first era" have also aired.

What not to wear

State radio programmes such as "Dressing in accordance with our people's emotion and taste" link clothes and appearance with the wearer's "ideological and mental state".

People who wear other's style of dress and live in other's style will become fools and that nation will come to ruin

Nodong Sinmun newspaper

Tidy attire "is important in repelling the enemies' manoeuvres to infiltrate corrupt capitalist ideas and lifestyle and establishing the socialist lifestyle of the military-first era," the radio says.

Newspapers too highlight the civic advantages of short hair and smart shoes.

Hair is a "very important issue that shows the people's cultural standards and mental and moral state", argues Minju Choson, a government daily.

"No matter how good the clothes, if one does not wear tidy shoes, one's personality will be downgraded."

For party papers such as Nodong Sinmun, the struggle against foreign and anti-communist influence is being fought out in the arena of personal appearance.

"People who wear other's style of dress and live in other's style will become fools and that nation will come to ruin," it says.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.