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Counterfeit Viagra and Cialis traffickers thrive in Jongno

October 10, 2014
Two "Bacchus women" are seen attempting to sell counterfeit Viagra pills to an elderly man at Jongno 5-ga Station in central Seoul. (Korea Times)

Two “Bacchus women” are seen attempting to sell counterfeit Viagra
pills to an elderly man at Jongno 5-ga Station in central Seoul. (Korea Times)

By Kim Jae-heun

A 50-something woman in gaudy makeup takes an elderly man into a dark alley near Jongmyo Park in central Seoul and gives him some blue pills.

“Cut a pill into pieces before taking it. That works faster,” she says. “Never drink alcohol when you take the pill.”

She and others like her are easy to spot selling counterfeit Viagra pills in the park, where hundreds of elderly people gather every day just to kill time.

Some call them “Bacchus women,” named after a popular Korean energy drink. They sell the drink, the counterfeit pills for erectile dysfunction and sometimes even sex.

“Viagra pills are for old men. Young people prefer gold pills called Cialis 500 or Cialis 300,” one of the women told The Korea Times. “I will give you three Viagra pills and three Cialis 500 pills for only 5,000 won ($4.70). Take a pill an hour before sexual intercourse and the effect will last for two hours.”

Of course, not all Bacchus women sell the pills. Some buy them from dealers and distribute them to other Bacchus women. When The Korea Times asked a woman to introduce a dealer, she refused.

“I don’t know. I cannot tell you where I get the drugs,” she said. “The only thing I can say is that these fake pills are manufactured in China, but their effects are the same as real Viagra pills.”

Blue-colored pills are counterfeit Viagra, and the yellow ones are counterfeit Cialis 500. (Korea Times)

Blue-colored pills are counterfeit Viagra, and the yellow ones are counterfeit Cialis 500. (Korea Times)

On one side of the fake pills, is the name “Pfizer,” the real manufacturer of Viagra.

Counterfeit Viagra trafficking is like a “second job” for these Bacchus women. Of course, taking the counterfeit pills can be dangerous.

According to the Korean Medical Association, counterfeit Viagra pills from China can lower blood pressure and cause heart attacks in old men.

Indeed, officials said, some men have died after taking the pills.

“We once found counterfeit Viagra pills in the pocket of an elderly man who died in a motel,” said an officer from a police station near the park. “We caught some dealers, but couldn’t catch the key distributors.”

Cracking down on counterfeit drug traffickers is the responsibility of the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) and the Jongno Police Station. However, they have yet to act on the problem.

“The city government has failed to secure money for the crackdown on the counterfeit Viagra,” said a SMG Senior Citizen Support Division official

“We are preparing to develop the Jongno district into a cultural zone for senior citizens, but no plans have been discussed to deal with the Bacchus women.”

Jongno Police Station officers said they had no immediate plan to crack down on the illegal trafficking.

Elderly Counseling Center president Lee Ho-sun said the government should focus on educating elderly men about the dangers of the counterfeit drug.

“The elderly should know about the perils of taking counterfeit pills,” Lee said.

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