Ambassador's Mustache That Irked a Nation Is No More

Harry Harris' facial hair was too harsh a reminder of Japanese colonialism for some
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 27, 2020 7:21 AM CDT
US Envoy Ditches South Korea's Most Controversial Mustache
In this Jan. 16, 2020, photo, US Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris poses after a briefing with a group of foreign reporters at his residence in Seoul, South Korea.   (AP Photo/Hyung-Jin Kim)

To most Americans, Harry Harris' mustache likely wouldn't cause a second glance. But to South Koreans, the US ambassador's facial hair became a lightning rod—and over the weekend, he finally shaved it off. The envoy headed to a barbershop in Seoul on Saturday to go under the blade, ostensibly to stay cool during the summer heat. But AFP notes the controversy that has surrounded Harris' mustache, notably because his mother was Japanese and the mustache closely resembles those worn by Japanese governor-generals during that country's colonial rule over the Korean Peninsula between 1910 and 1945. Harris, who's been the US ambassador to South Korea since 2018, has also raised tensions there due to his stances on dealing with North Korea, which include advocating for the South to boost military spending, per the BBC.

He had previously balked at the hubbub over his mustache. "I understand the historical animosity that exists between both of the countries, but I'm not the Japanese American ambassador in Korea, I'm the American ambassador to Korea," he said earlier this year, per AFP. "And to take that history and put it on me simply because an accident of birth I think is a mistake." Still, he insists that lopping off the facial hair was simply a way to beat the heat and adhere to coronavirus guidelines. "For me it was either keep the 'stache or lose the mask," he tweeted. "Summer in Seoul is way too hot & humid for both. #COVID guidelines matter & I'm a masked man!" (Read more South Korea stories.)

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