The U.S. ambassador to South Korea shaved off his mustache recently to stay “cool” during the country’s hot summer months after his controversial facial hair drew heat from anti-U.S. activists who claimed the mustache was a nod to former Japanese colonial rulers, Reuters reported on Monday.
The U.S. Embassy in Seoul posted a video to its official Twitter account on Saturday of Ambassador Harry Harris visiting a classic barbershop in the capital to remove his signature mustache, which he has sported continuously for years. Harris claimed that his mustache made wearing the sanitary mask required in South Korea during the coronavirus pandemic “too hot” and “uncomfortable,” especially now during the country’s humid monsoon season.
With help from his Senior Advisor @sykimsy, @USAmbROK Harris visited a classic local barbershop to become a little "cooler" during the hot summer months. Curious about how it went? Watch the video to find out more. pic.twitter.com/cpabketRfd
— U.S. Embassy Seoul (@USEmbassySeoul) July 25, 2020
Following his shave, Harris told the Seoul barber, “I haven’t seen this face in years.”
“Glad I did this. For me it was either keep the ‘stache or lose the mask. Summer in Seoul is way too hot & humid for both. #COVID [Chinese coronavirus] guidelines matter & I’m a masked man!” Harris wrote in a separate tweet.
Late last year, Harris’s mustache became the subject of controversy in South Korea as some politicians and citizens compared it to mustaches worn by Japanese officials during the colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula between 1910-1945. Observers believe the criticism of Harris’s facial hair belies a greater anti-U.S. sentiment in the country, with Harris’s half-Japanese heritage and pro-Trump administration stance on political issues making his mustache a prime target for South Korea’s ruling leftist government.
In January, Harris’s mustache again drew ire from South Korean politicians after he refused to endorse leftist Korean President Moon Jae-in’s plans to side-step U.N. sanctions on North Korea by exploring ways to allow South Koreans to pursue “individual tourism” to Pyongyang, Breitbart News reported.
Harris responded to Moon’s reported plans by urging Seoul to consult with the U.S. before taking action on the matter. The ambassador said this was the best way to avoid any “misunderstandings” that might trigger sanctions, according to Reuters.
The ruling leftist government condemned Harris’s response as “very inappropriate” and claimed his comments challenged South Korea’s sovereignty. Moon’s administration vowed to ignore the U.S. envoy’s input and continue exploring ways to resume inter-Korean economic activity.
Harris had previously resolved to “keep” his mustache in the face of criticism. He said he would consider removing his facial hair if someone could convince him that “somehow the mustache is viewed in a way that hurts our relationship.”
“I’ll note that there are many Korean Independence leaders that have mustaches but no one seems to focus on that. And so I think I’ll keep my mustache,” the ambassador concluded in an interview with the Korea Times in December 2019.