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[Opinion] Endorphins

Posted August. 25, 2008 08:29,   


“Endorphins are circulating. Today is the most exciting day since I moved into the presidential office,” said President Lee Myung-bak at a dinner for some 270 members of the ruling Grand National Party. The event lasted for more than two hours under a convivial atmosphere, with people exchanging boilermakers containing soju and beer. President Lee was elated and party members did not hesitate to propose toasts or compose three-line poems extempore to liven up the atmosphere.

An endorphin is a natural painkiller released by the brain discovered in 1975 by Hans Kosterlitz, a British biologist and professor at the University of Aberdeen. Kosterlitz named the substance endorphin, meaning “morphine within,” since it is 200 times more effective than morphine in alleviating pain. In Korea, thanks to Dr. Lee Sang-ku, who created a health craze in 1988 based on his endorphin theory, endorphins are widely known as a “substance for happiness” rather than merely a painkiller.

Endorphins, however, are not automatically secreted. No matter how great a person is, he or she cannot generate endorphins unless the mind and body feel happy. Endorphins are released when a person is in high spirits, but being upset or melancholy results in the release of adrenaline, which creates the opposite effect of endorphins. Laughter is known as the most effective endorphin stimulator. The body also creates endorphins while exercising such as through jogging or having sex. Henning Boecker, professor at the Technical University of Munich, also proved in a test conducted on track and field athletes that long-distance running release a larger amount of endorphins in people.

The question is if President Lee is feeling a rush of endorphins. He is six months into his term but has had to make a public apology twice and his approval rating has fallen to as low as the teens. Though his rating has bottomed out and begun to climb back up, it is too early for him to celebrate. Given the circumstances, who can say this is the time to create endorphins? President Lee would not have felt a rush of endorphins if he closely looked at the criticism made against him over his six months in office or if he knew how negligent he and his aides have been. Low income earners are in a serious crisis. They might have temporarily forgotten about their misfortune because of the country`s Olympic success, but in no time, they will have to worry about Chuseok, the Korean version of Thanksgiving. The people are still short of endorphins.

Editorial Writer Bhang Hyeong-nam (hnbhang@donga.com)