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Inequality in obesity

Posted February. 07, 2014 00:12,   


“It hurts… it hurts…” The son weighing over 140 kg was yelling all the time. He has an intellectual disability after suffering meningitis when he was a child. In a small apartment, the 80-year-old mother takes care of this heavy man. The son stuck to his bed calls to his mom all day. The old mom walks a one-hour distance every day to save bus fares and bought a roll of kimbap (Korean rice roll) that his son loves the most.

The story of this mother and son covered by a TV show is shocking. A doctor arranged by the production staff examined the son and said, “He got obese not because he ate too much but because he accustomed himself to a bad diet from his childhood.” The mother who had to work for living could not prepare his meals and bought his high-calorie snacks. She regretted that such a poor diet caused obesity.

According to the statistics announced by the Ministry of Health and Welfare Thursday, the obesity rate and income are in inverse proportion. If a person’s income is high, he is more likely to maintain a normal weight. And this trend appears more clearly among women than among men. In the United States, there is a wide gap in the obesity rate between affluent areas and poor areas. There is an old story that rich people weigh more. To eat healthy, however, low-calorie food for every meal requires time and money.

Paul Campos, the author of “The Diet Myth,” defines that a slim body is a social symbol representing the moderation of elites. Discrimination against obese people occurs at workplaces and in everyday life and people with a slim body get more benefits in our society. Korea is now lost in lookism. It is concerned that obesity may become an indicator for social classes. According to a report published by the Seoul Institute last year, adolescents whose parents belong to the low income bracket and do not have a high level of education are more likely to become obese because they eat high-calorie low-nutrition food more frequently. A proper approach should be taken for the social issue since obesity among people, in particular, among children and adolescents is not just a problem of appearance but a social issue of “health inequality.”

Editorial Writer Goh Mi-seok (mskoh119@donga.com)