South Korean Customs Seize Pills Containing Dead Baby Powder

The recent uproar in the Western media over the discovery of capsules containing the dried remains of aborted foetuses by South Korean customs is still attracting considerable attention from news outlets such as the Daily Mail and the BBC but how was this unsettling news received in Korea?

When the story first broke several weeks ago, it was not covered here for one simple reason: koreaBANG talks about whatever Korean netizens are talking about, and netizens weren’t talking — at least not about this. Still, the Korean media has continued, periodically, to produce further updates and analysis on the horrific reality of the production of the capsules in China, how they were smuggled into South Korea to be discovered by customs, as well as how the matter should be handled, with the most recent cluster of articles appearing just yesterday.

According to major South Korean news outlets, the capsules in question were produced in China, where traffickers were allegedly purchasing aborted foetuses from clinics or directly from women, storing them at home in small refrigerators, then returning to another hospital where the remains of the foetuses were microwave dried and ground into a fine powder to make the capsules. The gruesome contents of the pills were revealed when DNA tests demonstrated that up to 97.3% of the contents were from human remains, and that in some cases these were from three separate foetuses. Furthermore, earlier reports in mainstream papers described how South Korean customs officers had sized over 17,000 capsules between August 2011 and March 2012.

It is important to bear in mind that this is not the first scandal of its kind in East Asia, where the trade for illegal, supposedly traditional panaceas is well-established, and regularly makes the news. According to a Nate News article  which appeared on April 29, the same capsules had been discovered in China last summer, at which time Korean investigations revealed that the capsules were not available in South Korea. Though the Chinese government was keen to clamp down on the trade of these “supplements”, production continued and they eventually found their way into the South Korean black market. The media soon reported that this was made possible by members of the Joseonjok community, Chinese of Korean descent who for the most part live in North-East China and the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, and some netizens have also picked up on this. Rather than lamenting the sad reality of a trade that involves not only the cannibalisation of aborted foetuses, but equally the trafficking of products from many endangered species as well as dangerous additives, some have responded in a nationalist vein to the news, highlighting racial tensions that would make most people extremely uncomfortable. And not for the first time.

Since the story is still a current issue in South Korea, both as a consequence of the shocking facts involved in the case and to a lesser extent the influence of the foreign media interest in the topic, below are a selection of comments to show how netizens have reacted to the news over time.

However, despite sensationalist foreign media coverage, it seems that many netizens weren’t stirred to comment on the discovery of the illegal pills at all.

If something like this is possible coming from the Chinese economy, then what don’t we know about what is being exported to us?

If I find out that something has ingredients from China, I don’t eat it, period.

If the label on any “food” item says it was made in China, I wouldn’t dream of putting it in my mouth.  Their “candy” items reek of plastic.

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