Comedienne offers relief for ‘12th grade disease’High school seniors in Korea often say academic pressure is the worst of the many things that make their life miserable as they try to make their way through the hypercompetitive secondary school system to gain a place in college.
But there is another problem that most would rather not talk about. It is the concern about what many of them call the “12th graders’ disease,” which is usually anxiety about becoming obese.
They face a dilemma between eating and not eating all the “nutritious food” that mothers give them ― food that the mothers insist must be eaten so “they can be in better physical condition to study.”
As if to reflect their anxiety, a simple search by typing the words “obesity” and “test-taker” in Korean in a domestic search engine shows dozens of oriental medicine clinics that have special programs just to solve the “12th graders’ disease” with herbal therapies and acupuncture for students who have no time to exercise because they use that time to study.
A recent survey on comedy programs also demonstrated the students’ high degree of concern over the obesity issue. They chose an overweight comedienne who makes jokes about the dieting fad as the best entertainer to help them overcome academic pressure and the guilt over eating.
The comedienne, Kim Hyeon-suk, uses the stage name “Chulsandra,” a combination of the Korean word chulsan (childbirth), and the English name Alexandra, which she apparently thought was most amusing to show her character as a wacky spiritual leader of a pseudo-religious cult to “damn skinny people.”
She repeatedly chants slogans that recommend “natural childbirth” and “breast milk” to be a “reborn believer” of “Ttung Ttung-gyo” (religion for fat people).
She sings to a marching song that contains the lyrics, “Eat until you are tired and fall asleep and you will be blessed.”
Then she “damns” those who wear a size 2 and those who leave food untouched on a plate.
Out of 417 12th graders who signed onto “Vita Edu,” a Web site providing online lectures by after-school-class teachers, 136 students, or 32.6 percent, selected Chulsandra as the remedy for their stress.
An official of Vita Edu said it asked the students to choose from the comedians starring on KBS-TV’s “Gag Concert.”
“Students are under a lot of stress after the recent change in the college admissions system and we thought a survey like this one would help them overcome that stress,” he said.
A student with the ID “Jojo” said she loved the comedienne because, while she sounded bizarre, her comments usually consoled the 12th graders who were always “tempted to eat.”
“Whatever people say, I think consuming a lot of the right food is the best way to stay fit as a 12th grader in Korea,” a female student with the ID “Manim” said in a posting on the site.
by Lee Min-a