South Korea: Presidential candidate promises hair loss therapy

Status: 01/17/2022 10:19 a.m

A new president will soon be elected in South Korea. Democratic candidate Lee promises free hair loss treatments if he wins. That sounds like an anecdote, but it is seriously discussed in South Korea.

By Kathrin Erdmann, ARD Studio Tokyo

He rested one hand on his knee. Leaning slightly toward his viewers, Democratic presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung says directly to the camera, “You want to vote for Lee, then plant Lee Jae-myung,” a pun on hair transplants.

Catherine Erdman
ARD-Studio Tokyo

The politician himself, unlike incumbent Moon Jae-in, has rather thick hair: “A lot of people around me suffer from hair loss and I’ve always wondered why treatments aren’t covered by insurance. So I figured this would be a good topic.”

Target group: men between 20 and 30 years

One that Lee didn’t come up with himself, but rather the youth committee of his campaign team. That apparently looked into the statistics of the National Health Insurance. Because there you can see that in 2020, men in particular between the ages of 20 and 30 were treated for the most part at their own expense, although hair loss in Asia generally begins much later.

Many television reports are now about hair loss, they show thin male skulls from above or patients hitting their heads with a brush in the hope that something will grow again.

Enthusiastic male voices

Lee Yeon-jun, a man in his mid-20s, Loves Lee’s suggestion: “If it costs less, hair loss becomes less of a burden.”

The Korean song Jae-hwan sees it similarly as he tells JTBC: “The costs of hair loss are higher than I thought, so I think it’s a good idea that he proposed a solution.”

Lee Jae-myung, the Democratic presidential candidate (pictured left), hopes his promise will win many votes.

Image: EPA

Little hair – a stigma in Korea

The daily newspaper “Korea Herald” quotes a dermatologist who attributes the increased number of treatments to a greater importance of appearance than to more sparse hair. Because unlike in Germany, where a receding hairline and little hair are common in men, in Korea they are seen more as a stigma.

In a non-representative study published in the international journal of dermatology, bald men are perceived as older and less attractive — and sometimes as less potent.

populist proposal

For Lee Sang-Ee, a professor at Jeju National University’s Graduate School of Medicine, the democratic presidential candidate’s proposal is primarily populist: “Then other cosmetic treatments and skin treatments would also have to be paid for, and no country would do that.”

Diseases that affect health

The spokeswoman for the Korean Medical Association, Park Su-hyeon, is also annoyed about the campaign topic: “We have to ask ourselves whether hair loss is really important. There are still diseases whose treatment is not paid for, even though they have a direct impact on our health .”

Whether populist or not, the “hair loss issue” definitely brought the Democrat Lee points and sympathy. At least on this issue, he had better advisors than his conservative competitor. His recent proposal to abolish the Ministry for Equality backfired.

More help with hair loss – oblique campaign promises in South Korea

Kathrin Erdmann, ARD Tokyo, 17.1.2022 9:18 a.m

Leave a Comment