A woman arrives for a show at Seoul fashion week on March 22, 2016. - Seoul fashion week runs from March 21-26. (AFP / Ed Jones)

Misleading posts about ‘magic eye exercise’ spread online in South Korea

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South Korean social media users have shared a claim that a “magical eye exercise” corrects vision problems when practised regularly. But this claim is misleading: health experts told AFP that stimulating eye muscles through these exercises do not permanently improve eyesight. Studies show vision problems are only effectively improved through corrective lenses or surgery.

The claim was shared on Facebook here on May 30, 2021.

The post's Korean-language caption translates as: “I am seeing more and more results after a week.”

Screenshot of the misleading Facebook post. Captured June 4, 2021.

It links to a blog published on the South Korean social media platform Tistory.

The blog reads in part: “Magical eye exercise that will increase your visual acuity. This exercise method was created by Dr. Isao Matsuzaki… he claims it can correct myopia, farsightedness, and even presbyopia.”

The method purportedly consists of exercises that involve moving the eyeballs in several directions and focusing on objects at different distances.

Myopia, farsightedness and presbyopia are refractive errors that happen when light rays entering the eye cannot be focused onto the surface of the retina, leading to blurred vision.

Matsuzaki is the author of a book that describes similar eye exercises, according to this bookseller website. 

Contacted by AFP, his publisher said Professor Matsuzaki has passed away and there's nothing they can answer regarding the content of his book.

An identical claim was also shared here on Facebook; here and here on Twitter; and here in a YouTube video that has been viewed more than 160,000 times. 

However, the claim is misleading.

Health experts say there is no scientific basis to the claim that a “magical eye exercise” corrects refractive errors.

“[Eye exercises] do not physically alter parts of the eye that determine sight… so therefore cannot correct myopia, hyperopia, presbyopia or any other types of refractive errors,” Lee Sung-jin, an ophthalmologist at Soon Chung Hyang University Hospital, told AFP on June 4, 2021.

“The only way to permanently improve eyesight is through corrective surgery,” Lee said.

Shin Yong-un, an ophthalmologist at Hanyang University, told AFP on June 4, 2021, there were “no grounds” for the claim that non-surgical exercises can improve vision.

These exercise methods are “not a standard practice” recommended by eye doctors for improving vision, Shin said. 

Multiple keyword searches on Google Scholar did not find any credible studies that a “magical eye exercise” corrects myopia, farsightedness and presbyopia.

“Exercising eye muscles will not eliminate the most common maladies that necessitate corrective lenses -- namely, nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, and presbyopia,” reads this report published by Harvard Medical School on May 6, 2020.