Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Short people got no reason to live (in South Korea)

Joohee Cho at ABC News has done a focus on the South Koreans' apparent obsession with height:
"Living in Korean society, it's all about looks," Kwon says. "So as a parent I'm doing everything I can right now so that she won't grow up to be bitter& just in case she ends up being too short."

At another Hamsoa Clinic in Seoul, doctors offer both western and traditional Asian medical treatments to boost children's height. The clinic's program can predict how tall a child might grow after several hours of examination which includes x-rays, blood tests, and hair sample analysis.

"Actually my dad wants me to grow more tall, because this is my only chance to grow," says Esther (9) shyly while waiting for a blood test. Her older brother Paul (11) proudly boasts that his dream is to be six feet tall. Their mother is about to enroll them into a systematic program that costs $2,500 for 6 months of growth hormone shots. With herbal medicine treatment added to the package, the price can rack up to around $21,000. It also includes massage sessions and acupuncture, but the growth hormone shots are the most effective which makes it a mandatory option to the total package, according to the Hamsoa Clinic.

Because the time span to grow is limited, Doctor Shin Dong-Gil at Hamsoa Clinic says the parents who can afford the financial costs feel obligated at least to have their children checked out. "Korean parents are very competitive. They're always worried that if not tall enough, their kids won't find a good husband or wife, and even suffer discrimination in the workforce," says Doctor Shin Dong-Gil at Hamsoa Clinic. "These parents see height as a direct connection to their children's future potential."
I say "apparent" because I'm not convinced this is more than a trend for those privileged people on the fringe who, with relatively easy access to the monisphere just beyond the reach of most South Koreans, pursue all kinds of things — some silly, some not so silly — in a futile effort to always be ahead of the Joneses.

$2500 over six months is doable for many middle-class families, not just the moneyed upper echelons of society. But $21K? Now we're talking about a far smaller group.

Height has been a hot topic for the past few years, with many using it as a deal-breaker when choosing a mate. Korean women, just like their counterparts in China, Taiwan, and Japan, kvetch that they are unattractive because they don't have legs that stretch from here till Tuesday.

In South Korea, where people (more often women than men) go into an emotional tailspin over some imperfection, height is just one more thing to feel grossly insecure about. It doesn't help that attractive young women from Ewha some university are calling you "loser" on national television just because you're under 170 cm.

But ultimately, who cares? It boils down to this: We all want to date super models, but few of us actually get the chance. The rest must, well, settle.


  1. I think the girl's from Hongdae, or at least that's what I've heard. As for the height "obsession", I haven't seen anyone here in Korea obsessing about height to the point where they get expensive surgeries, but then again, I don't hang out with Gangnam mothers.

  2. I don't know if it was an urban legend, but I heard there was a surgical procedure that some models in Korea were undergoing that would insert material into their bone somewhere (I believe near the shins) that would make you taller. That kind of reminded me of an episode of South Park where some of the characters go crazy with plastic surgery.

  3. P wrote:
    I think the girl's from Hongdae, or at least that's what I've heard.

    And Adracadabra wrote:
    She goes to SNU, but it makes no odds. They were talking about guys in Hongdae.

    Well, that just goes to show how closely I'd been following that non-story. In fact, I only added it as an afterthought, thinking that Ms Cho might have gone forward with it because of the "loser" comment on Misuda.

    It's also interesting that this demonstrates how extracting information from Korean-language sources for the English-language blogosphere can be like playing the playground game "Telephone." Obviously, there's one right answer — I'm assuming she attends only one university and that information has been verified — but when there are x number of mediums between the source and our ears, it can get quite muddled, through no fault of our own.

    I think the "no gays in Korea" thing is a bit like that ("gay" in Korean having once referred, Konglish-style, to queens and convincing transvestites, not homosexuals in general).

    But I digress.

  4. P wrote:
    As for the height "obsession", I haven't seen anyone here in Korea obsessing about height to the point where they get expensive surgeries, but then again, I don't hang out with Gangnam mothers.

    And that's my point. These apocryphal stories, perhaps based on a handful of actual cases, are talked about in South Korea among South Koreans as the fringe cases they are, but when the Western media highlights it, it gives the distorted impression that it is considerably more commonplace than it actually is.

    Tongue-snipping is an example of that, I think.

  5. Adracadabra wrote:
    It's sad, though, that Korea's rich believe in such quackery. Just hope it doesn't spread.

    I wouldn't mind if their rich spread. But I can do without the quackery.

    Korean cable seems to be full of sounds-like-it-makes-sense quackery, I always thought. Then over the past few years in Hawaii and California, I've realized the US is no different.

  6. LastnameKim, I haven't heard about stuff being inserted in their bones, but the bone fracturing process, whereby the bones are broken and then set a millimeter or so away, in such a way that new bone fills in the gap, and then the process is repeated... I've heard of that. I think a person can add an inch or two.

    The thing is, a lot of these procedures, including the growth hormone, are so extreme that doctors have recommended them only for people who are extremely short. They're not necessarily a good idea for people of around average height (or a little shorter or taller) to get an edge.

    I'm 5'7". I'm happy with my height. At some point people need to worry about their height while lying on their back catching up with their height while standing up.

  7. I'm a shade under 5-9... Around 5-8.5 at the doctor's office last time I checked.

    I find shorter girls (5-3 and below) do fantasize about tall guys and typically prefer one. However, taller girls, eh... I'd say taller girls (5-6 and above) are a little more pragmatic. Girls in general think in terms of "gross" height, in other words, height with three inch heels on, so a 5-6 girl would be equal height with a 5-9 guy, etc. Men at or over 6-0 are not too common. It's like what? 30% of the male population that's at or over that height? Taller girls probably understand this better than shorter girls so ironically, I find them to be more realistic with expectations.

  8. Hey, Edward, thanks for the hat tip.

    Seriously, though, I thought it was something that might have turned into an entire Marmot's Hole post. There need to be more Marmot's Hole posts.

  9. "There need to be more Marmot's Hole posts."

    Don't ask me... ask the big kahuna from long island.

    I think I post entirely too much for a guest blogger (and for my bandwidth).

  10. Hey, I told you this already. I don't give HTs for an inspired comment.

    I did give you an appropriate HT here:


  11. I think your posts are well thought-out and appropriate, so even if you upped your output by 50% or 100%, it would be okay. It's not as if your some sort of Shelton who was turning the place into the Ahssa Hole.

    As for HTs, I'll school you yet. The Hadrian's Wall joke, since it was an original creation, should have been linked to the original joke itself, not the Wikipedia entry to Hadrian's Wall.

    And when someone shows you something you wouldn't reasonably have found on your own anytime soon, that's good for a HT as well. Not just for me, but for everyone. Swirl around the goodness of the K-blogosphere.

    Seriously, if you don't, then the K-blogs will be dominated by whiney newbies who think every utterance of theirs is golden criticism.

  12. " if you upped your output by 50% or 100%, it would be okay."

    Not if you are oranckay.


  13. Edward wrote:
    Not if you are oranckay.

    Ah, well I think that's just oranckay funnin' with you. And it may only have applied to that one post anyway.

    Seriously, if you upped your output while maintaining integrity and quality, it would be an enhancement.

    And frankly, if oranckay would pop in from time to time with a post, that would also be an enhancement.

    And ultimately, if The Marmot himself were to pop in from time to time and post, that would definitely be an improvement. ;)

    Seriously, Edward, I would be more than willing to let you post some stuff here from time to time. Or if I knew you were going to actually do it, I could resurrect the Sonagi's Consortium blog. I'd like to get myself and a bunch of other people cross-posting stuff to there. Be like a Hub of Sparkle with but without the sanctimony and passive-aggression. ;) Or the malware. :D

  14. I appreciate it and I may take you up on the offer one of these days.

    However, the issue for me lately has been that of time. Just not enough of it myself. I think what TMH needs the most is another high caliber guest blogger.


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