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Archive for January 19, 2020

Newsline: South Koreans are flipping out over US ambassador’s mustache

It might just be the most bizarre criticism of a US ambassador in recent memory. Harry Harris, Washington’s envoy to South Korea, has been subjected to heated vitriol on social media and by anonymous netizens for his mustache. That small piece of facial hair has, as Harris put it, “for some reason become a point of some fascination here in the media.” “If you watch social media it’s all out there,” Harris, the former head of US Pacific Forces, told reporters.(https://edition.cnn.com/2020/01/17/asia/harry-harris-mustache-intl-hnk/index.html) On the surface, the critiques border on ridiculousness. It’s just a small patch of hair. But Harris’ ‘stache has sparked discussions on topics much bigger than the ambassador himself: the still-raw emotions among many Koreans about the legacy of Japanese occupation; the prevalence of racism in such a homogenous society; and cracks appearing in the future of the decades-old alliance between Seoul and Washington as the two sides attempt to reach a deal on how to cover the cost of US troops stationed in South Korea, amid reports that President Donald Trump demanded a 400% pay increase. The gist of the criticism is that with the mustache, Harris resembles the reviled Japanese leaders who ruled the Korean Peninsula with an iron fist during the Japanese occupation. Some of Japan’s most prominent wartime leaders — like Hideki Tojo, the Prime Minister who was later executed by a postwar tribunal, and Emperor Hirohito — had mustaches. Under Japanese rule, many Koreans were brutalized, murdered and enslaved. It’s still living memory for elderly Koreans and remains a highly emotive subject in both North and South Korea.