[FOUNTAIN] Hairstyles and Governing

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[FOUNTAIN] Hairstyles and Governing

The government order to citizens on Nov. 17, 1895 to cut their hair, struck Koreans like a thunderbolt out of the blue. Although King Kojong and the crown prince cut their hair first to set an example, the public still engaged in spirited resistance to the order.

The Confucian belief that the body and all its accoutrements should be preserved and protected as a symbol of respect to parents, from whom it is inherited, meant the order to cut hair was equivalent to being told to publicly insult your parents. The government was bombarded by protests from Confucian scholars, who claimed that they would rather cut off their hands and feet than their hair.

Before the order was proclaimed, Korean men typically wore their hair in knots or in pigtails. Married men had their hair in topknots, while unmarried men bound their long gak hair into braided pony tails called chong. That is why chonggak became a term for an unmarried man.

The government order may have been initially unpopular, but it sparked a revolution in Korean men's hairstyles.

In Western countries, men only began to wear short hair in the 19th century. Bariquand et Marre, a French machine manufacturer, invented a "hair-cutter," contributing immensely to the growing fashion for short hair.

Since primitive ages, human beings have worried about how to take care of the hairs on their head, which number between 100,000 and 130,000 and grow an average of 13 millimeters a month.

The most important function of hair is to protect the brain. But hairstyles often determine one's image, so they have been subject to artistic exploration by men and women. People around the world wear their hair in a variety of ways - from long to dishevelled to neat.

The hairstyle sported by Japan's new prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, is attracting much attention. Japanese media have dubbed it the "Lion's mane." It was reported that Mr. Koizumi created his hairstyle 15 years ago with his favorite barber in his hometown after long thought.

The new prime minister's hairstyle is totally different from that of most politicians in Japan, who usually have their hair slicked back in the so-called "regent style."

In today's world, the image we portray is of great importance. Mr. Koizumi's hairstyle contributes to his distinctive image. But a politician with a great image may not be an ultimately successful politician. Koizumi has made waves with his entry, but the novelty will soon wear off.

Now it is time for him to show his political mettle, demonstrating distinctive ideas that match his unique image.

by Bae Myung-bok

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