By Kim Tae-jong
The nation has been hit by ultrafine dust originating in China over the past few weeks. People are concerned about associated health risks. But pork producers seem to have one reason not to hate the heavily polluted air.
According to major supermarket chains, sales of samgyepsal or sliced pork belly have jumped drastically after a series of warnings against the worst-ever levels of ultrafine dust here.
The robust sales are due to a belief held among the public that elements in the greasy pork slices absorb dust away from the respiratory organs and help the body excrete any accumulations of the dust.
For example, the nation's largest supermarket chain e-mart said that pork sales jumped by 48.3 percent between Feb. 14 and 27, when the worst levels of ultrafine dust blanketed the country, compared to the same period last year. In comparison, sales of overall livestock products only jumped by 12.5 percent in the cited period.
Sales of pork peaked suddenly as health authorities warned that toxic particles carried by winds from China could cause and exacerbate respiratory problems such as asthma and contribute to chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases.
Although the benefits of eating pork to help respiratory organs is nothing but a myth without any scientific proof, large numbers of people believe there are health benefits, because it is known that miners used to enjoy eating pork after working underground.
Along with pork, sales of pears also jumped by 19.2 percent and 21 percent, respectively, in the cited period, because they are also known to be good for respiratory organs.
"As clouds of ultrafine dust became more intense, sales of pork, pears and balloon flower roots have drastically jumped as well as protective cotton masks," said an official from e-mart.