South Korea has seized thousands of smuggled drug capsules filled with powdered flesh from dead babies, which some people believe can cure disease, in a series of crackdowns since August 2011, officials have said.
Authorities said on Monday that they would strengthen customs inspections to boost the crackdown on the capsules, which were made in northeastern China from babies whose bodies were chopped into small pieces and dried on stoves before being turned into powder.
Customs officials refused to say where the dead babies came from or who made the capsules, citing possible diplomatic friction with Beijing. Chinese officials ordered an investigation into the production of drugs made from dead fetuses or newborns last year.
The customs office has discovered 35 smuggling attempts since August 2011 of about 17,450 capsules disguised as stamina boosters, and some people believe them to be a panacea for disease, the customs service said in a statement.
The capsules of human flesh, however, contained bacteria and other harmful ingredients.
The smugglers told customs officials they believed the capsules were ordinary stamina boosters and did not know the ingredients or manufacturing process.
Ethnic Koreans from northeastern China who now live in South Korea were intending to use the capsules themselves or share them with others, a customs official said. They were carried in luggage or sent by international mail.
The capsules were all confiscated, but no one has been punished because the amount was deemed small and they were not intended for sale, said the customs official, who requested anonymity, citing department rules.
The South Korean customs agency began investigating the after receiving a tip a year ago. No sicknesses have been reported from ingesting the capsules.