Laughter Therapy Takes Off in South Korea

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Son urges her students to cry out their husbands' or sons' names whenever "men" come up in the lyrics.

For some, these classes are a stress management tool. For others who suffer from depression, singing can be a healing process.

Son says about half of her students have suffered at least mild depression. Of them, a third have been diagnosed with what's known here as "housewife holiday syndrome," one of the most common forms of depression in which women fall into, before and after, national holidays.

Confucian tradition holds that only housewives are to bear the burden of catering big family gatherings during the holiday season, whereas men are expected to socialize with relatives while staying away from the kitchen.

Media health campaigns preceding holidays now warn housewives to keep their backs straight while cooking pancakes for hours, and remind men to take a break while playing card games. Women may show depression symptoms such as change of appetite, back and knee pain and feeling restless.

In-Soon Oh, 47, was one of them. "I used to close every curtain in the house midmorning after my family goes to work or school. I would just sit in dark or sleep until it's time to prepare dinner. After everyone goes to bed, I would find myself driving around the neighborhood."

She says her husband cheated on her with her next-door neighbor friend. But 27 years into her marriage, she still lives with and nurses her in-laws.

"One day, I just swallowed 90 sleeping pills," she said. After surviving the suicide attempt and hospitalized treatment for severe depression, she began singing therapy at a friend's suggestion. "I was like a cheerleader in my class when I was a girl," she proudly said with a grin.

"When I started singing, it all came back. Singing made me feel confident as a person, not just as a wife or mother." Oh is now taking an advanced course to be a certified singing lecturer, which also includes musical skills to beat the Korean drum.

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