Kim Jong-un

On the fringes of North Korean politics

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 December, 2011, 12:00am


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Kim Jong-un's haircut - what the ...? If we are going to scrutinise his father's funeral for clues about the way things are in North Korea, how about this little marvel of symbolic aestheticism?

For starters, it is a clear sign of some kind of reversal in the political order, because Kim the Younger's coiffure is kind of upside-down. If you look closely at the photos of him escorting his father's hearse through the snow, the haircuts of the other civilians are thinner on the top than on the sides, particularly the chap immediately behind Kim, who we are told is his uncle Jang Song-taek. However, with young master Kim it's exactly the other way round: bushy on top and shaven around the sides. This can only be a cunning reference to the generational change that's about to hit Pyongyang. Older men go bald, younger ones have more hair, a truth that Kim's cut boldly states. Clearly, the young guys are getting ready to take over.

Also, Jang's role in Pyongyang power politics is 'shrouded in mystery', the media tell us, but a shroud is something in which you bury the dead, so go figure.

Plus, Kim junior is fat, which is emphasised by the way the close-cropped part of his hair-do offsets his chubby jowls. The old guys are gaunt, particularly the shrouded Jang. Clearly, therefore, Little Big Kim is saying that Kim the Elder's days of lobster, cognac and outr? hair are not over yet, for so long as he's around.

Also, the shaven temples can only be a sly nod to the military that there is indeed a place for them in the new autarchy. Shaven temples are the sine qua non of military haircuts, particularly in the US Marines, whose devotees' standard coiffure includes a daring little tuft above the forehead. However, Kim's tuft is more grand, lengthening to a fringe. As a statement of hipness it would be right at home in Lan Kwai Fong's trendiest dive. North Korea's new ruler is saying: never mind the weather, it's party time. Obviously.