Baldness is an unfair reality for some but there are effective treatments for hair loss. The question is, should a nation compensate one soldier who incurred hair loss during mandatory military service?
The 26-year-old man known as Kwon, filed a complaint against the Suwon branch of the Ministry of Patriots and Veteran Affairs, saying he should be compensated because he started losing hair during intense 10-day training in July 2004.
Kwon had three patches of circular balding in July 2004 but the hair loss has since expanded to his whole body, including his eyebrows.
“It is most likely an autoimmune problem,” senior trichologist Leonora Doclis of the Belgravia Centre said. “Alopecia areata is characterised by smooth bald patches on the scalp and if it progresses can lead to alopecia totalis (complete baldness of the scalp) or alopecia universalis (hair loss on the entire body).”
In most cases, alopecia areata eventually corrects itself without treatment and the hair grows back. If after six months there has been no improvement, hair loss treatments can provide good results. Leonora says, “we find that high strength minoxidil provides the best results for patchy hair loss, and it will grow hair back most cases as long as the baldness is not too extensive.”
Kwon, who started his military service in December 2002, said he could not receive treatment on time because of the training, and as a result the symptom worsened.
After his discharge, Kwon filed an application to the regional office of the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs to be recognised as a national meritorious man, saying the condition was due to stress from the military service and from having to wear helmets in humid weather.
But the office rejected his application in April 2006, saying the disorder was unrelated to military duty.
“A lot of people are quick to blame their hair loss on anything other than the most reasonable explanation,” Leonora adds. “There is no way that wearing a helmet, even in such conditions, can cause hair loss. Stress can play a part in hair loss but he would have to have a medical to rule out other possible causes, such as a thyroid disease.”
Kwon filed a suit with a district court in Suwon, and the local court ruled in his favour. Once recognised as a person of national merit, that person is eligible to a national pension and various other government benefits.
(Please note, the above image is not of Kwon)