[FOUNTAIN] Protect Garlic, Our Great Fighter

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[FOUNTAIN] Protect Garlic, Our Great Fighter

Eleven years ago when I was assigned to Berlin, I received a three-month German visa in Seoul. These days, when visas expire, the German information bureau automatically renews them for another year, but it used to be a more tedious process. At the time, I had to visit the administrative office for foreigners' affairs. My turn did not come until I, my wife and my three children had waited for about four hours beginning at 5 a.m.

The officer in charge of renewing visas covered his nose with his hand and frowned. He asked, "Have you eaten garlic?" At that time, I was frustrated by all the standing around and waiting, and this guy was taunting me. So I said, "Yes I did. By the way, when was the last time you took a shower? You smell like rotten cheese." His face turned red with embarrassment and he fell silent. His coworker tried to calm us down. I left, pretending I was mad and reluctant to leave, but when finally I got out of the place, I felt good about what I said.

I am still living in Germany, and I now take shower and brush my teeth before leaving the house, particularly if I have an interview. This is because I don't want the insignificant fact that I smell of garlic and kimchi to become a disadvantage. We cannot talk about Korean food without talking about garlic. Even in Tangun mythology, which extends back to 2,333 BC, our people were eating garlic. Egyptian ancient history records that workers ate garlic to boost their stamina when constructing the pyramids.

The distinctive smell of garlic is due to a substance named alicine, and the magical efficacy of garlic is known to come from this. Garlic's effects are widely known in both the East and West. During the Ming dynasty in 16th century China, Lee Shi-jin wrote a book about botanical and herbal medicine. The book said garlic increases energy and repels insects. Roman scholar Pliny the Elder said in his famed book, "Natural History," that garlic helps treat 61 conditions including hemorrhoids, ulcers and asthma. Recently, scientists proved that garlic fights geriatric diseases and various types of cancer. Its effects are indeed far-reaching. Maybe we were able to survive after eating bean sprouts contaminated by pesticides because of the efficacy of garlic. Even Germans who dislike the smell of garlic take garlic capsules for their health.

Domestic farmers are protesting against the agreement between Korea and China on garlic imports, which the Korean government allegedly signed after surrendering to Chinese pressure. Though the government always speaks out at home, in diplomatic situations it never does anything right. Korea needs an effective long-term policy to help farmers by increasing the consumption of home-grown garlic.

by Yoo Jae-sik

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