As a result, anyone who wants to treat thinning hair has to undergo expensive treatments in private clinics, while there is also a thriving market in imported medicines of questionable efficacy and safety.
Some estimates suggest that as many as 10 million of South Korea’s 52 million residents are experiencing some degree of baldness.
Not everyone is impressed with the proposal, however. Supporters of the rival, conservative People Power Party accused Mr Lee of making populist promises, with taxpayers ultimately covering the additional costs.
“Since hair loss is on the borderline between disease and beauty, there is a high likelihood that this could in the future be expanded to treatments for skin complaints, false teeth, wigs and cosmetic surgery”, the conservative Munhwa Ilbo newspaper wrote in an editorial.
Mr Lee is ahead of his main challenger, Yoon Suk-yeol, by 8 percentage points in the most recent public opinion poll, published on Thursday. Neither candidate is bald.
The campaign, ahead of an election in March, has already been marred by accusations of bribery, plagiarism, illegal gambling and other irregularities against both candidates, as well as members of their families.