This year's most controversial facial hair has finally taken the razor blade from US ambassador to South Korea, Harry Harris. Months after his moustache stirred debate and controversy in South Korea over its colonial symbolism, Harris decided to shave it off at a small barbershop in Seoul.
The ambassador however, stated that his practical reason for doing so was due to the inconvenience and discomfort of wearing a face mask during the summer months. Because wearing a face mask during this pandemic is the right thing to do he says, "Glad I did this. For me it was either keep the 'stache or lose the mask. Summer in Seoul is way too hot & humid for both."
Harris is a retired US Navy admiral and the son of a Japanese woman and an American US naval officer. His face was clean-shaven when he led the US Pacific Command before accepting his post in Seoul in July 2018. He said he grew his moustache to mark his new diplomatic career after serving four decades in the military. It is a habit among retired military veterans to grow massive amounts of facial hair after years of shaving regulations. Scholars have also pointed out that Harris' style of moustache was also commonly worn by regional leaders such as Chiang Kai-shek, China's leader of the nationalist government between 1928 and 1949.
The much talked about facial hair sparked a row of criticism for resembling the same type of moustache worn by the Japanese colonial governors during World War II when the Korean peninsula was colonised by the Japanese from 1910 to 1945. The ambassador's Japanese heritage did not make things easier as relations between South Korea and Japan have taken a downward turn over the past year due to trade disagreements and disputes on long standing historical issues.
In an article last year from the Korea Times newspaper, the newly appointed ambassador was firm to say, "I am who I am. All I can say is that every decision I make is based on the fact that I'm American ambassador to Korea, not the Japanese American ambassador to Korea,"
Harris' term has sparked a few fires in South Korea which has even led to a break-in of anti-American activists at his official residence last year. This was a bold move done in a bid to protest US demands to increase South Korea's contribution in housing 28,500 US troops stationed in the peninsula, which forms part of the security alliance to keep North Korea from escalating its aggression. Both countries have failed to sign an agreement on the matter after their previous contract expired in 2019.
In spite of the magnification on his upper lip hair growth, the US embassy produced a video showing the ambassador on the barber's chair getting a shave.