Friday, March 18, 2005

Hairstyles and Autocracy

There's an interesting story in the New York Times about how illicit sales of VCR players and other tech into North Korea are starting some counterrevolutionary cultural trends:
The construction of cellular relay stations last fall along the Chinese side of the border has allowed some North Koreans in border towns to use prepaid Chinese cellphones to call relatives and reporters in South Korea, defectors from North Korea say. And after DVD players swept northern China two years ago, entrepreneurs collected castoff videocassette recorders and peddled them in North Korea. Now tapes of South Korean soap operas are so popular that state television in Pyongyang, North Korea's capital, is campaigning against South Korean hairstyles, clothing and slang, visitors and defectors have said.

"In the 1960's in the Soviet Union, it was cool to wear blue jeans and listen to rock and roll," said Andrei Lankov, a Russian exchange student in the North at Kim Il Sung University in 1985, who now teaches about North Korea at Kookmin University here in the South. "Today, it is cool for North Koreans to look and behave South Korean, as they do in the television serials. That does not bode well for the long-term survival of the regime."
Perhaps North Korea's Hairstylist-in-Chief should consider adjusting his own puffy coif to match the times. When hairstyles threaten a regime, it's just a matter of time before its reign is finished.