[FOUNTAIN]Aphrodisiacs, Legal and Illegal

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[FOUNTAIN]Aphrodisiacs, Legal and Illegal

A substance that arouses sexual desire is called an aphrodisiac. There is another word, philter, to describe similar substances, but aphrodisiac sounds more fit for a potion credited with the power of love. The word aphrodisiac comes from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of beauty and love.

Koreans, especially Korean men, have an extraordinary attachment to foods that are said to increase physical endurance. All kinds of foods are touted. Recently, one such food, dog meat soup, was targeted by FIFA, the world governing body of football. But Europeans, who have often criticized Koreans for eating dog soup, bosintang, once sought the powder of Egyptian mummies as an aphrodisiac. They are in no position to protest over bosintang.

When it comes to seeking foods that are said to increase sexual prowess, there seems to be not much difference from one place to another. In many parts of the world, reproductive organs of certain animals, such as seals, lions and tigers have been used to boost stamina. Snakes, eels, turtles, oysters, and rhinoceros horn have been widely used as food to increase male potency. Napoleon Bonaparte ate asparagus to raise his sexual appetite and Giovanni Casanova enjoyed chocolate for the same reason. Ginseng, garlic, scallions, pomegranate, rapeseed, licorice root, and cacao fruit are some other choices. Most of these foods are similar to what Korean men have used to strengthen their sexual performance. Among these foods, only a few, including ginseng and garlic, have been scientifically validated in terms of their benefits; the others are reportedly ineffective, or even harmful to humans.

Stimulant drugs have grown in popularity recently as aphrodisiacs. The drug most commonly used in Korea for this purpose is methamphetamine, often called "philopon." In 1888, Nakai Nakayoshi, a professor at Tokyo University, discovered methamphetamines while extracting ephedrine from hemp plants. In 1941, a Japanese pharmaceutical company started selling methamphetamine, which was labeled "philopon." The drugmaker named the drug after the Greek word philoponos, which means love of labor, after considering the drug's effect of driving away drowsiness and fatigue. Methamphetamines were provided during World War II to Japanese munitions factory workers and kamikaze squads to drive away the workers' fatigue and the airmen's fears. It was also used to ease the feeling of emptiness the Japanese felt after their nation's defeat.

A Korean actress, who was cherished by the public for her innocent image, was arrested recently for taking philopon. Although she denied she knowingly took the drug, we regret that another talented entertainer has fallen victim to narcotics.

The writer is a Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Yoo Jae-sik

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