US ambassador to South Korea shaves off his controversial mustache, saying it's too hot under a mask


US Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris poses for a photo after a group interview at the ambassador's residence in Seoul on January 16, 2020. - Washington has compromised in its demands that South Korea should pay billions of dollars towards US troop presence and it was Seoul's turn to reciprocate, the American ambassador said on January 16. (Photo by Sebastien BERGER / AFP) / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by Sebastien BERGER has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [after a group interview] instead of [during an interview with AFP]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo by SEBASTIEN BERGER/AFP via Getty Images)

The US ambassador to South Korea has shaved off his controversial mustache, saying it was too uncomfortable when wearing a mask as part of coronavirus measures.

Harry Harris asked a barber in Seoul to remove his bushy facial hair after suffering during the hot and humid summer in the South Korean capital, and the embassy posted a video on Twitter documenting the experience Saturday.
"With help from his Senior Advisor @sykimsy, @USAmbROK Harris visited a classic local barbershop to become a little 'cooler' during the hot summer months," the post reads.
    In the video, Harris complains about the recent weather in Seoul before sitting down to get his mustache completely shaved off by barber Mr Oh.
    Harris later wrote a post-shave message on his own Twitter account.
    "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," he said.
    Mask-wearing, testing and contact tracing have been important parts of South Korea's coronavirus response, which has been widely praised.
    So far, the country has recorded just over 14,000 cases and 299 deaths, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.
    Harris has been the US ambassador to South Korea since July 2018, and his facial hair previously attracted bizarre criticism from a small section of society.
    Racism, history and politics: Why South Koreans are flipping out over a US ambassador's mustache
    In January, Harris told reporters his mustache had "for some reason become a point of some fascination here in the media" after he was subjected to heated vitriol online.
    The gist of the criticism was that with the mustache, Harris resembled the reviled Japanese leaders who ruled the Korean Peninsula with an iron fist during the Japanese occupation from 1910 to 1945.
    Some of Japan's most prominent wartime leaders -- including Emperor Hirohito and Hideki Tojo, the Prime Minister who was later executed by a postwar tribunal-- had mustaches.
    Under Japanese rule, many Koreans were brutalized, murdered and enslaved. It is within living memory for elderly Koreans and remains a highly emotive subject in both North and South Korea. In recent years, issues relating to Japanese reparations for its behavior in Korea have become a point of contention between Japan and South Korea.
    Another issue is that South Korea is a homogenous society where mixed-race families are rare and xenophobia remains common.
    Harris was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and American father, who was a Navy officer, and some online commentators have pointed to Harris' heritage along with the mustache in their criticisms.
    But Harris isn't Japanese, he's a US citizen. And calling him out for his Japanese ancestry would almost certainly be considered racist in the United States.
      "I understand the historical animosity that exists between both of the countries but I'm not the Japanese American ambassador to Korea, I'm the American ambassador to Korea," said Harris in an interview with Korea Times in December.
      "And to take that history and put it on me simply because of an accident of birth I think is a mistake."
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