[VIEWPOINT]Health aids' benefits may be bile

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[VIEWPOINT]Health aids' benefits may be bile

A while ago, a Korean friend told me that his parents were in town and asked if I would like to join them for dinner. We had been friends for a long time, and I had met his parents on a few occasions, so I accepted.

A few days later, we had a pleasant dinner at his home, enjoying a special, homemade wine that his parents had prepared. After the meal, my friend, with a big grin on his face, asked me if I knew what type of wine we had enjoyed at dinner. He showed me a big jar, which contained the wine, and inside was a huge snake! It was the first time I had seen snake wine.

My friend told me that his parents made the wine a few years ago and, because it is very good for a person's health, they wanted to share it with me. Frankly, I was grateful that they were concerned about my well-being, but I was upset that I wasn't told in advance what I was being offered.

Koreans who were upset about Brigitte Bardot's comments about dog soup may also be upset about another French national writing an article like this.

First, I would like to make it clear that I do eat dog soup. It's not that I go out of my way to have dog soup for my health, but that it comes naturally as part of living in Korea and being with Korean friends.

Just as foie gras, which is goose liver, and escargots, which are snails, are traditional French foods, dog soup is traditional Korean food that Koreans enjoy. Other than that, I don't have any other stereotypes about dog soup.

From my perspective, it seems that Koreans too often connect certain foods with health. I have often seen people go on adventures and spend lots of money, beyond the imagination of Westerners, when they consider certain foods to be good for the body or stamina. I have heard that some brave people take trips overseas to eat snake soup or the juice from a live bear's gall bladder, which are illegal here. And, we often read or see news reports about people getting caught in customs while trying to smuggle massive amounts of exotic foods such as snake or bear's gall bladder into Korea to meet local demand.

It seems odd that Koreans, who will go out of their way to enjoy "scarce" foods overseas, refuse to consider taking up inexpensive, easy ways to become healthy. Most Koreans do not exercise regularly, while many foreigners seem to manage their health by exercising and playing sports regularly. Throughout their lives, these foreigners don't go out of their way to find and eat something because it is good for the body or take supplementary medicine made from animal products.

On the other hand, Korean office workers seem to pay little attention to exercise or their health, particularly while drinking heavily during the week. Perhaps, during the weekend, some will play golf or do light exercise. Even at our office, where we have fitness facilities, more staff workers choose to do nothing rather than exercise.

I don't know if there are any scientific studies that compare the health and life span of people who consume expensive snakes or gall bladder juice to those who don't. I have never heard that snake wine drinkers or gall bladder juice sippers are healthier. Similarly, to my knowledge, in the case of males, there are no reports confirming that people who consume those foods have more stamina. But, I'm sure there are many who will disagree with me on this.

Investing in one's health is important. Regardless of the process, those who do are building a better, happier future for themselves and their families. But wouldn't regular exercise and a change in drinking habits be more economical and beneficial than the habit of searching for scarce health foods?


The writer is the chief executive of Allianz Life Insurance in Korea.

by Michel Campeanu

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