Teens spend the summer on diets, and in hospitals

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Teens spend the summer on diets, and in hospitals


This series features articles written by high school students participating in the Korea JoongAng Daily’s internship program. All articles were written under the guidance of our staff reporters. -Ed.

With summer break underway, many Korean teens have been embarking on extreme diet routines - and many are ending up in the emergency room due to malnutrition.

“It’s like unsolved homework,” said Noh Jae-eun, an 18-year-old high schooler in Seoul who has made use of her summer vacation by dieting.

By most accounts, Noh isn’t very fat or skinny, but she has constantly been looking for different ways to shed a few pounds. Like many teenage girls in Korea, dieting is one thing she struggles with.

Noh has been dieting since age 12 and tried various ways to lose weight. Recently, that dieting put her in the hospital after she tried extreme measures out of frustration that she wasn’t losing weight fast enough.

Noh’s rigorous daily routine included yoga for an hour in the morning followed by two hours of swimming, 1,000 jumps on a jump rope and workout videos throughout the day, with barely anything to eat in between. She would make sure to spit out her food during dinner, or throw it all up in the end.

“I remember exactly how it happened,” Noh said, recalling the moment she was admitted to a hospital. “I got up from bed and everything started to spin, eventually fading to black. Next thing I knew, I was in the hospital.”

Fortunately for Noh, her condition wasn’t serious, but there are many other teenagers like her who end up in the hospital because of drastic dieting during the summer break. They’re influenced by the media, where shows feature celebrities explaining their diet regiments and K-pop girl groups show off their slim figures in provocative music videos.

The immense pressure to lose weight is also felt when shopping. With mannequins boasting unrealistic body proportions, customers are left thinking their bodies are not “good enough.”

But often, the heaviest criticism actually comes from one’s own family. “I’m constantly compared to my cousins,” Noh said.

In fact, it was Noh’s family members who strongly encouraged her to lose weight. Her father went as far as buying her diet pills. “I’ve even been forced to skip meals,” she said.

As a result, many teenagers dread family meetings out of fear that they will be constantly questioned by relatives about their body.

“Being overweight feels like a crime,” Noh said.

BY LEE SO-MIN [veronicalee1503@hotmail.com]
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