no piercings or jeans
Approved hairstyle for men? North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a joint meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea and the Korean People's Army Committee in Pyongyang in 2016.REUTERS/KCNA

North Korea has embarked on a nationwide crackdown on residents who wear Western clothing or have Western hairstyles. This includes wearing jeans and having piercings.

According to Japan's Asia Press, the country is placing tight controls ahead of its 7th Congress of the Workers' Party in May. The clampdown is mainly focused on North Hamgyong province and Yanggang province which are close to China.

It is believed that residents living in these provinces have relatively easier access to information from the outside world, including Western fashion and hairstyles. According to Associated Press, North Koreans are already forced to wear regime-approved hairstyles which they can chose from a state-sanctioned list of haircuts.

North Korea had previously ordered its male citizens to adopt Spartan Socialist hairstyles that are not longer than three or four inches. The campaign titled Let's trim our hair in accordance with the socialist lifestyle' was aimed at controlling grooming and dress standards in 2004-2005.

The latest rule extends to Western clothing, was uncovered by journalists at Rimjin-gang, a North Korean news website supported by AsiaPress. The news report claims that the tighter controls are part of the regime's attempts to eradicate capitalism from society.

AP said that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's regime fiercely opposes Western culture in any form. Those found guilty of anti-socialist behaviour face being sent to labour camps.

"A growing number of North Korean people are infatuated with Western culture," said Ishimaru Jiro, a Japanese reporter who works with citizen journalists inside the regime. "The crackdown will continue until the end of the upcoming gathering [7th Congress of the Workers' Party]".

It is believed that 'inspection units' comprising teenagers dedicated to Kim, are on the streets looking for those who dare to break the new dress code. "They target supposed capitalist tendencies such as length of skirts, the shape of shoes, T-shirts, hairstyles and clothes," Rimjin-Gang reported.

The North Korean Youth Union which is made up of volunteers who sign up once they reach 15 years old. They are tasked with preventing "the corruption of public morals." The volunteers also target unmarried women who carry out business in marketplaces as this is forbidden.