South Korea pays for gyms for obese children

Wed Oct 1, 2008 2:15am EDT
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SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea plans to help obese children pay for health club membership and other activities that can help them lose weight, an official said on Wednesday.

Health ministry official Chun Myung-sook said the rate of childhood obesity had tripled over the past three years due to a changing diet higher in fatty foods and a more sedentary lifestyle.

Under the government plan, elementary school students whose body mass index indicates obesity will be able to receive up to 40,000 won ($33.58) a month to help them bring their weight down.

"Kids won't be able to waste the money on eating sweets. We will give them electronic vouchers that can only be used in designated places," Chun said.

Costs to the government and the economy related to childhood obesity were 2 trillion won in 2006, the ministry said, making the voucher program cost effective.

(Reporting by Kim Junghyun and Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Jonathan Hopfner)