[FOUNTAIN]I, parasiteFeces examination during the spring and fall semester used to be an annual event in school. Most of the elder generation remember the “report card” handed out after the examination. The teacher would say, “You have roundworms,” or, “You have pinworms.” If a student was announced to have roundworms, pinworms and whipworms, the other students would roar loudly with amazement. The infected students had to come to the front of the classroom and take Santonin, a white pill developed by Pfizer in the 19th century. Roundworms required 30 pills, roundworms and pinworms together required 50 pills. According to your grade, the amount of pills you took was different.
Eliminating parasites became a full-scale project in 1964 when the Korea Association of Health was established. Two years later a law to prevent parasites was introduced and from 1969 mass feces examination began. The parasite infection rate dropped from 84.3 percent in 1971 to 2.4 percent in 1997. Feces examination was abolished after accomplishing its mandate.
The first feces examination was conducted by an American in 1949. He assumed that there were 500 million to 1 billion roundworm infections among the South Korean population of 20 million, and estimated that four out of five people were affected. Back then, when adults saw a skinny person they would say that the child had worms.
Some even used tapeworms to lose weight in the United States for a while. There is a famous story that Maria Callas, the opera diva, went from 92 kilograms in 1954 to 60 kilograms in two years using a tapeworm.
The Gaia theory, which regards the Earth as a huge living organism, was proposed by the English atmospheric scientist James Lovelock in 1979. From Gaia’s perspective, human beings must seem to be no more than parasites. Human beings raise the temperature (of the atmosphere), make holes in the lungs (the Amazon rainforest), pollute the blood (rivers and seas) and gnaw at the bones and flesh (the land). Conan Doyle once wrote a fictional scene where a scientist poked the lithosphere, and the earth let out a dreadful scream.
The whole country is in a frenzy due to parasite larvae found in Chinese kimchi. Insecticides are selling like crazy in pharmacies. The parasites that plagued Korea in the 1970s were eradicated by insecticides. Earthquakes, typhoons and floods are the genocidal methods that Gaia uses to cleanse itself. Recently the number of major quakes and hurricanes has increased. It’s frightening that this might be the scream of Gaia, full of anger.
by Yi Jung-jae
The writer is a deputy business news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.