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South Korea Presidential Candidate Promises Free Hair Loss Treatment

Leftist South Korean politician Lee Jae-myung — the official nominee of South Korea’s ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) for the nation’s upcoming presidential election on March 9 — vowed on Friday to expand the public health insurance policy in South Korea to include treatments for hair loss if elected South Korea’s top leader.

“I will help people suffering from hair loss to focus on their treatment by sharing the economic burden,” Lee wrote in a Facebook statement on January 14.

“I will expand the national insurance plan’s coverage of hair loss treatment drugs and actively look into including hair transplants for the treatment of serious cases of hair loss as well,” the 57-year-old promised.

A representative for Lee’s presidential campaign suggested on January 4 the former governor of South Korea’s Gyeonggi province was considering a proposal to expand national healthcare coverage to include hair loss ailments after learning that “one in five South Koreans suffer from hair loss,” Yonhap News Agency reported.

Residents of South Korea’s southwestern city of Gwangju asked Lee to elaborate on the subject on January 5 during a campaign visit. Lee responded by saying that while the proposal was still tentative, he hoped to “approach it seriously.”

“From the perspective of the body’s completeness, I believe that hair loss should be covered by national health insurance,” he said.

“My policy team is looking into the details, such as the extent of financial burden and where to set the limit,” he added.

Recent South Korean health data suggests “an increasing number of Koreans are being treated for hair loss, with a notable increase in younger age groups,” the Korea Herald reported on January 11.

“In 2020, a total of 233,194 people were treated for hair loss at hospitals, with women accounting for 43 percent,” the newspaper detailed, citing data from South Korea’s National Health Insurance Service (NHIS).

“[T]he age group who received treatments the most were those in their 30s at 22.2 percent,” according to the statistics.

“The figure was particularly high among men in their 30s, with 25.5 percent receiving treatment,” the data revealed.

“Even 20-somethings, who are less likely to experience hair loss, were almost as likely to receive hair loss treatment as 40-somethings, with figures of 22.2 percent and 22.3 percent, respectively,” the Korea Herald observed.

Dermatologist Cho Nam-jun, who is employed by South Korea’s NHIS at its Ilsan Hospital in Gyeonggi-do province, recently suggested to South Korean media that increased vanity among younger South Koreans was responsible for the 2020 NHIS data demonstrating a surge in hair loss patients.

“It is more likely that more young people are seeking clinical help because they are increasingly more concerned about their looks, rather than a drastic increase in hair loss,” the Korea Herald quoted Dr. Cho as saying on January 11.

Lee, who once said he aspired to become a “successful Bernie Sanders,” has seemingly tapped into the surge in appearance-consciousness among South Korea’s younger generations through his hair loss fund proposal. The left-wing DPK reportedly chose Lee as its 2022 presidential candidate due, in large part, to his “aggressive” responses to the Chinese coronavirus pandemic while governor of Gyeonggi province (2018-2021) and his popular advocacy of a universal basic income (UBI) in South Korea.

Lee demonstrated this penchant for populism in his written Facebook statement on January 14 when he confirmed his campaign’s pledge to seek public funds for personal hair loss.

“The anxiety, social phobia and severed relationships that people with hair loss suffer from are directly connected to the quality of life, and with the discriminatory attention they receive in everyday life, (hair loss) cannot be regarded as a personal matter,” Lee argued.

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