SEOUL, Nov.10 (Korea Bizwire) – Under a social atmosphere that pressures Korean girls to have slender bodies, even young girls are forcing themselves to follow strict diets. In addition to teenagers, children in elementary school have embraced dieting, causing concern that they will experience physical and psychological side effects.
According to ‘Health at a Glance 2015′, a report issued by the OECD, the proportion of overweight children and teenagers between the ages of five and 17 was 26.4 percent among boys and 14.1 percent among girls.
The gap between boys and girls in Korea was the biggest among the OECD members. In most of the other 33 countries, the average rate was 24.3 percent among boys and 22.1 percent among girls, which is not a significant difference. Most of the European countries showed small differences, and there were even countries like England where the proportion of overweight children was higher among girls than boys.
Professor Jung So-jung, a pediatrician at Konkuk University, says that the phenomenon is caused by societal demands for women to be skinny. “Even children who look slender think they are overweight,” said Dr. Jung.
The proportion of those who have a distorted body image was 18.8 percent among females and 13.4 percent among males.
In order to lose weight, 18.8 percent of female teenagers and 13.4 percent of male teenagers employed dangerous methods such as taking slimming pills, taking laxatives, throwing up after eating, and starving.
Professor Kang Jae-hun, a doctor of family medicine at Inje University Seoul Paik Hospital, points out that the double standards between boys and girls are the social reason girls feel more pressured to be skinny. “In Korea, if a boy is fat, people say that he looks like someone in a high position. However, when a girl is fat, people wonder about how she is going to find a husband.”
Professor Kang adds that the mass media and idol groups are casting a great influence on the way children and teenagers perceive the human body. “There are so many idols and celebrities that seem to be too skinny on TV, and children try to be like them. It is a global phenomenon, but it seems like Koreans are into looks way too much.”
Experts were also concerned about the side effects of dieting.
Professor Kang points out that excessive dieting could prevent children from growing up healthy, and might result in osteoporosis, anemia and menstrual irregularity when they become adults. In addition, being obsessed with losing weight will not only bring about emotional disorders, but also cause anorexia.
Experts claim that in order to get rid of the obsession with skinny bodies, the mass media has to be managed. Professor Kang points out that creating a social atmosphere is important. “Other countries make efforts to not show models or celebrities who are too skinny in the mass media. Korea should start making efforts to deviate from lookism.”
By Francine Jung (firstname.lastname@example.org)