Rumoured order for students in Pyongyang to copy Kim Jong-un’s hairstyle goes viral
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's distinctive hairstyle is the talk of the internet after reports that all male university students in Pyongyang are under orders to get a buzz-cut just like it.
But the reports appear to be bogus and recent visitors to the country say there is no evidence of any mass haircutting.
The reports say an order went out a few weeks ago for university students to buzz-cut the sides of their heads just like Kim.
Washington-based Radio Free Asia cited unnamed sources as saying an unwritten directive from somewhere within the ruling Workers' Party went out early this month, causing consternation among students who didn't think the style would suit them.
"I was there just a few days ago and there was no sign of that," said Simon Cockerell of Koryo Tours, which specialises in taking foreign tourists to North Korea. "It's definitely not true."
An Associated Press journalist in Pyongyang also said he had not seen any recent changes in hairstyles among college students.
Wide interest in the reports reflect the fascination the outside world has had with the distinctive hairstyles of both Kim Jong-un and his father, the late Kim Jong-il, who had a curly bouffant.
Though the forced grooming story may be one of many reported oddities about North Korea life that turn out to be false, it is true that the government has its own "fashion police". Choe Cheong-ha, who defected from North Korea in 2004, said members of a government-run youth organisation check for people who are not dressed properly.
He said they look for whether people are wearing the mandatory lapel pins with the images of former leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, or for violations such as blue jeans, clothes that have English words on them or above-the-knee dresses.
But Choe said directives on hairstyles weren't much of an issue, since most people voluntarily kept their hair neat and conservatively styled.
In 2005, however, the government waged war against men with long hair, calling them unhygienic anti-socialist fools and directing them to wear their hair "socialist style".
The country's state-run television station even identified violators by their name and address.
The campaign required that hair be kept no longer than 5cm. Older men received a small exemption to allow comb-overs.