For health-conscious, it’s a real gas“The room you’re about to enter contains five times more oxygen than where you’re standing,” reads the banner above the entrance to Gensia, an oxygen cafe above Gangnam Station in southern Seoul. That much oxygen gives a person the same boost as a few hours of rest in a forest, says the cafe’s manager.
Sounds intriguing ― particularly to the growing number of health-conscious Koreans who not only are concerned about what they eat and drink, but also what they breathe. More and more people are visiting oxygen cafes like Gensia (02-3481-1281) to inhale oxygen and sip oxygen-laced drinks.
Gensia’s customers head to the cafe’s oxygen therapy lab where they are served a complimentary glass of ionized water and a large dose of pure oxygen.
A waiter distributes rubber tubes similar to the ones you might see in hospitals, and asks customers to hold the tubes under their noses for 15 minutes. The oxygen blast is free.
In a busy neighborhood where you can practically taste the pollution in the air, the cafe’s oxygen has been a big hit among office workers. “It’s a major fatigue reliever,” says Jeong So-mi, who works nearby.
“I feel refreshed after breathing in the oxygen, much like after I go to a sauna.”
The cafe also offers cocktails, fruit punch and iced teas mixed with ionized water for roughly 5,000 to 6,000 won ($4.10-$5). With just 15 drops of ionized water, a person can absorb up to 100 times more oxygen than normal during the course of a day, says the cafe manager Lee Seung-jun.
Some medical experts say that people can enhance their metabolic activity and boost their mental alertness by absorbing more oxygen. Studies also suggest that some illnesses may develop because of poor breathing habits.
Oxygen isn’t limited to cafes. Oxygen-related products are filling health stores’ shelves and the virtual shelves of online shopping malls.
Near Water O2, bottled water with oxygen added, hit the market last year and sells about 8 million bottles a month. Pure Oxygen Korea, a company that specializes in importing oxygen generators from Germany, says it sells an average of 100 generators a month, ranging in price from 1.7 million to 3 million won. Most of the generators are sold to study halls, PC rooms and hagwons (private academies) ― places where people want to concentrate. The same company also introduced “Oxygen Shot,” a facial and body spray made of compressed oxygen and de-ionized water. An 85-gram bottle costs 20,000 won.
Cheil Jedang, a major food company, is marketing a similar spray which it says is made with compressed air from a pristine valley in the Mount Halla region of Jeju Island. A five-liter can costs about 4,000 won.
“There has been a significant rise in the number of companies marketing portable oxygen since the Daegu subway fire,” said Park Jong-su a CEO of Sansosem (www.sansosem.co.kr), an online shopping mall that sells oxygenated food, air purifiers and air in a can. A portable oxygen canister, which sells for 69,000 won on the Web site, has about six minutes’ of pure oxygen.
Not everyone is sold on oxygen therapy. “Oxygen can cause harm when you don’t have enough or have too much,” says Youn Hou-jou a professor in th respiratory department at Hanyang University’s College of Medicine. “For people who have chronic lung diseases extra dose of oxygen may be helpful. But for others, what we breathe every day is enough for our metabolism.”
by Park Soo-mee
If you answer “yes” to three or more of these questions, your body may need more oxygen.
1. Do you wake up tired, even after eight hours of sleep?
2. Do you wake up frequently during sleep?
3. Are you chronically fatigued?
4. Do you lack physical endurance?
5. Are you often moody and irritable?
6. Are you susceptible to colds and the flu?
7. Do you suffer from allergies?
8. Do you frequently feel tense?
9. Are you frequently constipated?
10. Do you have frequent pain in your shoulders or back?
11. Do you have weight problems?
12. Do you crave sweets or alcohol?
Source: Oxygen Health Systems,
a provider of ozonated water