North Korean College Students Ordered to Adopt Leader Kim's Haircut

Email story
Comment on this story
Print story
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sports his trademark haircut at a conference of Workers' Party ideological officials in Pyongyang, Feb. 25, 2014.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sports his trademark haircut at a conference of Workers' Party ideological officials in Pyongyang, Feb. 25, 2014.

Colleges in North Korea have ordered male students to sport the same hairstyle as the country's young leader Kim Jong Un while female students are being advised to keep their hair as short as that of first lady Ri Sol Ju, according to sources inside the hermit kingdom.

The order, issued in early March, has sparked resentment among some male students not in favor of trading their hairstyle for Kim's shaved sides and long parted top look, which a decade ago was regarded as a style sported by smugglers, the sources said.

The instruction for male students to get the same haircut as their leader is not based on any directive from Kim but on a recommendation from the ruling Workers' Party, according to a North Korean from North Hamgyong province near the border with China.

Still, colleges nationwide are treating it as a directive and "many students are disgruntled by it," the source told RFA's Korean Service, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The round-faced Kim's trademark half-buzz, half-mop hairstyle "is very unique but it does not look good on some face shapes," the source said. "However, the college authorities have told the students that this is a party recommendation and must be adhered to."

"In the past, the authorities did not make a particular hairstyle compulsory,” the North Korean said. "This is the first time. So criticism against the instruction is unavoidable."

One source said he knew of a college student, a neighbor, who had just unhappily shed his hairstyle for Kim's look.

'Preposterous policy'

The absence of a written directive from the government or ruling party on the hairstyle reform makes it easier for the authorities to ease the policy if there is a groundswell against it, according to observers of developments in North Korea, a reclusive country with intricate rules aimed at stage managing information.

The Swiss-educated Kim came to power after his father Kim Jong Il, who favored a bouffant hairstyle, died in December 2011.

A North Korean living in Pyongyang on a visit to a Chinese border town confirmed that college students had received the new hairstyle instructions.

"In North Korea, Pyongyang is the launchpad for any national policy," he told RFA, saying the instructions were issued early this month.

However, there was confusion over the reasons behind the haircut instructions, the Pyongyang resident said.

"In mid-2000, youngsters wouldn't dare sport the Kim Jong Un hairdo," he said, also speaking on condition of anonymity. "At that time, the authorities would pounce on anyone with such a hairstyle because they would be deemed to be a smuggler."

"It's not the first time North Korea has had this preposterous policy," he said.

List of approved styles

Last year, according to reports, the North Korean government recommended a relatively generous range of 28 hairstyles for its citizens—18 for women and 10 for men.

The reports were based on pictures seen on the walls of hair salons around the impoverished country showing the approved styles for men and women. Married women were allowed more flexibility in their hair choices than single women.

But the new call for female college students to sport the short hairstyle of Kim's fashion-conscious wife Ri is merely a "suggestion," the source from North Hamgyong province said.

Ri, who entered the public eye as the first lady in July 2012, raised eyebrows when she displayed a new, shorter hairstyle at a  concert featuring a police performance troupe in September last year.

The North Korean paper Rodong Sinmun printed a picture from the event, showing Ri wearing her hair short and dressed in a deep blue shirt with a black collar, contrasting with the shoulder-length perm she had sported while attending a performance a month earlier.

The North Korean source said college students have been advised, however, against wearing the above-the-knee skirts at times donned by Ri.

Reported by Joon Ho Kim for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Bong Park. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.

Comments (12)

Sophat UN

from Phnom Penh

It's the crazy haircut.

Apr 01, 2014 10:27 PM

Anonymous Reader

Easily the butt-ugliest haircut in the history of haircuts. But guess what, it fits this chubby buffoon-of-a-ruler perfect!
The challenge to all mouth pieces of North Korea (making idiotic comments about the credibility of Radio Free Asia): bring forth proof that Kim's X-girlfriend Hyon Song Wol is, in fact, alive and well right now (March 2014). REAL PROOF!!! And if you fail, send a huge apology to RFA - signing it with "I'm a Moron".
In preparation for looking like an idiot, read the details about North Korea from:

Mar 29, 2014 06:59 PM


from Sydney

This story has proven to be a hoax. I am quite disappointed with these kind of news. Which just proven a lot of the medias are just propaganda tools or just repeating stories from other sites without caring about the substance and truth of the news they are broadcasting. Makes people wonder whether they should believe anything that was broadcasted. I thought South Korea supposed to be a responsible society. You are no worse, wait maybe worst than your Norther Brothers. Really shame on you

Mar 28, 2014 09:29 PM


Is anything on Radio Free Asia true? This story's already been shown to be completely made-up as was the one about Kim's uncle being killed by dogs and the one about the execution of Kim's girlfriend or the last story about compulsory haircuts.

But when a radio station is run by the US government you've got to expect a lot of rubbish. Just look at the languages they broadcast in - the station is aimed at people who have a grievance against America's enemies.

Mar 28, 2014 02:57 PM


Editor's Note: As noted in our mission statement, RFA adheres to rigorous journalistic standards of objectivity, accuracy, and fairness.

Mar 28, 2014 03:00 PM


from Reggio Emilia

Imperialist [...], like the "dog eaten uncle". One day USA will bomb korean people (that suffered a lot, northern or southern, from the USA imperialism). And they want us saying "oh yeah! go America, bring to korean people human rights!". Just like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libia, Syria, Iran, Venezuela. Radio FREE ASIA with general quarter in WASHINGTON DC? Oh come on. YANKEE GO HOME!

[This comment has been edited by RFA Editorial staff per our Terms of Use]

Mar 28, 2014 10:51 AM

View all comments.





More Listening Options

View Full Site