South Korea Park's office bought Viagra 'for altitude sickness'
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South Korean President Park Geun-Hye is seen as she attends an event to grant certificates of appointments to newly appointed officials at the presidential Blue House, in Seoul, South Korea, November 18, 2016. Yonhap/via REUTERS
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SEOUL (Reuters) - The office of South Korean President Park Geun-hye said on Wednesday it had bought dozens of Viagra pills while preparing for her trip to Africa this year, not for anyone's erectile dysfunction but to treat possible altitude sickness.
News of the purchase, confirmed by Park's spokesman, Jung Youn-kuk, comes as Park is fighting calls for her to step down over allegations that she and a friend had improperly pressured big businesses to contribute funds to foundations set up to support her policy.
Viagra became the most searched keyword among South Koreans on the country's main online news portals following the news, which was initially reported by an opposition Democratic Party member of parliament.
While normally associated with erectile dysfunction, Viagra has been reported as helpful in treating high-altitude pulmonary edema, or altitude sickness.
The presidential Blue House bought 364 pills in December, including 60 blue Viagra pills and the rest a generic version of the drug, according to the Democratic Party MP, Kim Sang-hee.
Jung said the pills were bought to treat altitude sickness for presidential aides and employees on Park's May trip to Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.
"We bought them, but they were left unused," Jung told reporters.
Last week, the starlet of a TV soap became the most talked-about celebrity in South Korea when a TV channel revealed Park once used her name as a pseudonym at a beauty and detox clinic.
Kim said data from the country's public health insurance review service showed Park's office also bought injections widely used in cosmetic and anti-aging treatments.
The Blue House said the purchase of injections was intended for the health of the office's employees, recommended by medical staff.
(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Jack Kim and Nick Macfie)
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