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[Opinion] Fighting Obesity

Posted November. 22, 2005 08:34,   


It is interesting to see how the times have changed by looking at people’s flesh. During the Renaissance, plump and voluptuous women boasted their healthy and sexy beauty, as portrayed in most of the famous Renaissance nude paintings. Meanwhile, people in photos taken during the Korea Empire are all skinny with hollow cheeks. They are not very different from today’s North Koreans suffering from hunger. The old Korean proverb, “A person who died after eating will become a healthy looking ghost,” well reflects the people’s desperation amid severe starvation.

Things are completely the opposite today as we worry about being overweight or obese. Not long after the times when people were mostly concerned about making a daily living to be able to buy something to eat, Korea has become a country with obesity problems. There is a more dramatic reversion. In the U.S., obesity has become a concern among the low-income bracket. While poor parents are busy working, unattended children indulge in cheap junk food or fast food. Such high-calorie, low-nutrition food only fattens the children, thereby creating this paradoxical situation in which the hungry are becoming more obese.

According to a news report, the Korean government, in cooperation with the private sector, is going to set up National Obesity Control Committee and make National Health Insurance cover obesity treating medications. It will also consider banning fast food commercials before 9:00 p.m., when children are likely to be awake, and labeling all food with its calorie and fat content. So, the government, too, is joining the fight against obesity. Some doctors have claimed that providing insurance coverage to obese people with sleep apnea syndrome, cerebral apoplexy, and diabetes will prove to be a way to save medical expenses in the end.

Health care and beauty care are industries with great potential in the 21st century. As more and more people pursue quality living and wellbeing, a healthy and beautiful body is regarded as the most important factor in life. In this respect, overcoming obesity is like killing two birds with a stone as one will gain both good health and beauty as a result. Obesity is clearly a “disease.” It has long been a public enemy as a cause for metabolic syndrome which will lead to various adulthood diseases. I do not intend to stop the government from intervening in this matter. Yet, I am worried that the government might try to capitalize on this cause only to accelerate its “budget obesity.”

Kim Chung-shik, Editorial Writer, skim@donga.com