“The 18 state-sanctioned women’s hair styles of North Korea.”
I came across this photo on Twitter this morning. After some further Google research I learned that it was taken by “David Guttenfelder, chief Asia photographer for the Associated Press” when he was granted “unprecedented access to parts of North Korea.”
I was first shocked then amused, but then my shock subsided and my amusement turned to reflection. I know my “Fuck Me Hair”style would not fly in North Korea. And North Korea, as a general topic, has always been an uncomfortable one for me. Growing up, and still up until now, I was often asked “North or South?” in response to my telling someone I was born in Korea. As a South Korean growing up in America, and as a South Korean from America living in Belgium I subconsciously put more effort into holding on to both my Korean and America roots while putting down new roots here. And so when I see news pop around anything Korean, North or South, I’m more drawn to it than I ever used to be.
After laughing over my morning coffee at the awkwardly outdated hairstyles for North Korean women, “sanctioned” by their government, I immediately looked up some old photos of my mother and her two sisters to see if their hairstyles of years past resembled those of any of the North Korean women. I found one photo of all three of them. The Three Sisters Kim circa early 1990s.
My mother is standing on the left. Her hair is definitely not sanctioned in North Korea, although the hairstyles my “eemos” (aunts) were sporting are borderline questionable. And the Three Sisters Kim would probably laugh that I put up this photo of them on the world wide web. I wonder how the North Korean women in Guttenfelder’s photos would have felt knowing their faces would be on Twitter one day. North Korean women and South Korean women actually have similar hairstyles at the end of the day. But at the end of my day as much as I am “closer” to understanding the creature country that is North Korea, there’s still so much I don’t know about them because of the veil of secrecy locking them in.
If you ask my grandmother about North Korea, her eyes always reveal that she’ll never forget living through the Korean War that tore apart families and body parts left and right. She’ll never forget how life changed for her more than sixty years ago no matter the thirty-plus years she’s been living in America. She’ll never forget having to marry as a young teen, and ultimately moving to the states with the rest of my family in the 70s, for a better life.
My parents immigrated to America first. And new generations of my family were born in America. A new generation of my family, my little Noah, now grows up in his birthplace Belgium. Generations evolve yet time stands still for so many North Korean people.
I do wonder how I will explain North Korea later, to my Noah, as there exists a north to every south. And Korea is in his blood.