SEOUL, South Korea: South Korea's ruling party presidential candidate has sought to attract voters by proposing that public healthcare insurance cover hair loss treatments.
Lee Jae-myung is is the nominee of the centrist-liberal Democratic Party in the 2022 South Korean presidential election.
Lee made the hair treatment pledge, saying almost 10 million people suffer from hair loss, but are forced to resort to overseas drugs as an alternative, due to high treatment costs.
His proposal triggered both cheers from some voters and criticism over his populist agenda.
A 15-second video clip went online portraying Lee in a spoof hair loss commercial, saying he's the best candidate for "your hair," which was widely circulated and generated parodies on social media.
Jeong Da-eun, a mother of two, told a meeting arranged by Lee's party with voters suffering from hair loss that she gave up medical treatment, since it required payments of $3,325 in six months.
Describing Lee's proposal as irresponsible, Ahn Cheol-soo, a minor opposition candidate who was formerly a doctor and software tycoon, promised to reduce the prices of generic drugs and fund the development of new treatments, if elected.
Lee Sang-ee, a professor at Jeju National University's medical school, said the national health insurance might falter if it spends hundreds of billions of won to cover hair loss, when health insurance is meant to help those suffering from serious ailments.
There is no official data on how many South Koreans suffer from hair loss.
The National Health Insurance Service only provides yearly tallies of people who have received hospital treatment, which amounted to some 230,000 in 2020.