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12.23.2009

in south korea, it's all about the tall

Another one of these articles on the great lengths Asian people will go to in order to enhance their appearance. This time, it's South Korea, where people are apparently really, really obsessed with being and becoming taller: South Korea Stretches Standards for Success.

It's not just about looking more attractive. Swayed by the increasingly popular conviction that height is crucial to success, parents are trying all manner of remedies to increase their children's stature, from hormone shots to traditional Eastern treatments and special exercises.

And like all beauty crazes -- fueled in part to the proliferation of Western models of beauty and success -- the whole thing has become a booming industry, with parents shelling out thousands of dollars to "growth clinics" for a chance at changing their kids' height... and their fate.
Ms. Seo spends $770 a month on treatments for her daughter and her 4-year-old son at one such clinic, Hamsoa, which has 50 branches across the country and offers a mix of acupuncture, aromatherapy and a twice-a-day tonic that contains deer antler, ginseng and other medicinal herbs.

"Parents would rather add 10 centimeters to their children’s stature than bequeath them one billion won," said Dr. Shin Dong-gil, a Hamsoa doctor, invoking a figure in Korean currency equal to about $850,000. "If you think of a child as a tree, what we try to do here is to provide it with the right soil, the right wind, the right sunshine to help it grow. We help kids regain their appetite, sleep well and stay fit so they can grow better."

...

At his clinic, Kim Se-hyun, a fifth grader, walked on a treadmill with her torso encased in a harness suspended from an overhead steel bar. The contraption, the clinic maintains, will stretch her spine and let her exercise with less pressure on her legs.

Nearby, sweat rolled off Lee Dong-hyun, 13, as he pedaled a recumbent bicycle while reading a comic book. Behind him, his sister, Chae-won, the shortest girl in her first-grade class, stretched to touch her toes on a blue yoga mat, squealing as an instructor pushed down against her back.
These sound like weird, elaborate torture rituals. Seem like a lot of time, effort and money to force change something that shouldn't necessarily be changed. The worst part is, there's no clinical proof or other evidence that these treatments really work.

I get the fact that a lot Korean families only have one child, and there's an impulse to do everything possible to ensure that kid has a shot at success in this world. But damn, when you step back and look at this situation, doesn't all this pushing and stretching just seem really foolish?