By Park Si-soo
Staff Reporter

Making people taller is big business among doctors and practitioners, despite the fact that claims on the effectiveness of treatments are often exaggerated or far-fetched. And given the latest court ruling on the matter, it seems nothing will stop them for the time being.

Last year, a mother of a “short” child immediately signed him up for a simple treatment advertised on a flier that promised growth of 13 centimeters, but it didn’t work.

The mother sued the practitioner over the exaggerated advertisement.

A district court ruled in her favor, but this was overturned by an appellate court, and the Supreme Court Monday upheld that decision.

Supreme Justice Kim Ki-hyung said in the ruling that the treatment in question cannot be seen as a medical act.

“It is not seen as a conventional medical treatment, but a practice done in combination with hormone therapy and physical exercise,” Justice Kim said. In other words, the practitioner didn’t break the law.

The mother’s near-obsession to see her child grow captures the spirit of “the tall man phenomena” that is occurring on a national level.

In a popular television talk show, a tall college coed said, “Height is a measure of competitiveness. I think a man who is short is a loser.” She added that a man must stand at least 180 centimeters in order to be a potential date for her.

As a result, short men walked with their heads bowed in shame.

According to an online survey of 2,550 adults, 73.8 percent of female respondents put height as a priority when selecting their dating partners. They responded that the ideal height for men is around 180 centimeters.

Many young parents have gone to great lengths to get their children to grow taller, triggering a sudden spurt of successful growth-related businesses that offer vitamins and concoctions that stimulate growth hormones.

The wealth divide also figures into this fad.

Well-off parents enroll their children into systematic programs that cost as much as $2,500 for growth hormone shots. With herbal medicine treatment, massage sessions and acupuncture added to the package, the price can go up to around $21,000, according to an Oriental clinic, Hamsoa, in Seoul.

Seo Ji-young, a podiatrist at a general hospital in southern Seoul, said, “Most teenagers have no problem with their growth hormone levels. In fact, their genes are to blame for their short height. But their parents ignore this and just ask us to boost their growth.”

According to a survey conducted on 400 parents by Seo’s hospital, respondents wished their sons would grow to 180.6 centimeters and daughters to 166.7 centimeters, nearly seven centimeters higher than the average men’s height of 173.3 centimeters, and that of women, 160 centimeters.

The social craze to be tall partly comes from Koreans’ tendency to follow trends, explains Whang Sang-Min, professor of psychology at Yonsei University in Seoul.

“With society’s average height rising as a result of better nutrition, parents fear that their children might not be included in the new group, the tall people.”

pss@koreatimes.co.kr

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