North Korean Officials Pay Visit to London Salon Over “Bad Hair Day” Ad Featuring Kim Jong-un

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
April 15 2014 8:24 PM

North Korean Officials Pay Visit to London Salon Over “Bad Hair Day” Ad Featuring Kim Jong-un

kju
How's my hair?

Photograph by Ed Jones/AFP/GettyImages.

Nobody wants to be the poster boy for a bad haircut. Presumably, Kim Jong-un is among that group. And when it comes to hair, if you needed proof that the North Korean leader’s skin may not be as thick as your run-of-the-mill dictator, it came from London this week.

It all started when a London hair salon, M&M Hair Academy, used Kim’s smiling visage and close-cropped hairdo as part of a promotional campaign. And not in a good way. The salon pinned up a poster on its window with Kim’s picture and the text: “Bad Hair Day?” As a further enticement, the poster offered a 15 percent discount to customers.

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No a big deal, right?

Well, the salon put up the poster to drum up extra business on Wednesday last week. On Thursday, two men claiming to be North Korean officials showed up at M&M asking why their leader was on the poster and demanding to see the manager. M&M’s proprietor, Mo Nabbach, told Agence France-Presse the officials photographed his salon, demanded his name and ordered him to remove the poster, which they deemed disrespectful. "The two guys were wearing suits and they were very serious. It was very threatening,” said Nabbach. Not one to be intimidated by hair henchmen, Nabbach stood up for his rights (of sorts) saying: “Listen this isn't North Korea, this is England, we live in a democracy so I'm afraid you're going to have to get out of my salon,” according to the BBC.

A little worried that maybe the poster issue wasn’t yet over, Nabbach also called the cops to report the incident and was told the North Korean embassy had also contacted the police about the poster in question. A London police spokesman told the Guardian: "I can confirm that the North Korean embassy have contacted us and that we are in liaison with them. Officers spoke to all parties. No offences have been disclosed."

The motivation for the ad campaign is the widely circulated story about North Korea’s strict regulation of hairstyles in the country. “Obviously in the current news there has been this story that North Korean men are only allowed one haircut,” one of the salon’s barbers told the BBC. That one haircut, unsurprisingly, looks a lot like Kim Jong-un’s. Slate’s Joshua Keating, however, warns that you should be skeptical of claims of barbershop big brother in North Korea. But, as Keating writes: “This is not to say that the North Korean government hasn’t been unusually preoccupied with the hair of its citizens.”

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.

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