'All Things Bright and Beautiful' – Yeon-Ka-Shi (연가시) Parasitic Worms
Yesterday, as I was teaching, I felt some water fall onto my arm from the ceiling. For a moment I looked at it bewildered, unsure where it had come from and looking up deduced it was condensation falling from the vent of the air-conditioner. One of my students muttered some comment, the class laughing in response. I had no idea what he said but recognised one word; a word that immediately invokes revulsion: ‘yeon-ka-shi!’
If you ask Koreans, especially kids about the yeon-ka-shi (연가시), you are likely to be treated to a catalogue of horror stories. The yeon-ka-shi is a parasitic, ‘horsehair’ worm (nematomorpha) that spends part of its life in water where it finds its way into a host. Though some will tell you otherwise, the hosts are insects and not humans though there have been rare cases of human ‘infection.’ One recorded case involved a young girl who vomited up a dead worm. Her mother then took her to hospital where both her and the worm were examined. Now, how true this is I don’t know but I read the article, in fact a medical report, somewhere online and subsequently lost the link. However, the conclusion was that the girl must have drunk contaminated water, ie from a pond or puddle and the worm, killed by stomach acid was subsequently expelled in vomit – not a surprise as a gutful of puddle water is hardly comforting.
I have been treated to numerous gross accounts of the yeon-ka-shi infecting humans, or how it turns insects into zombies which are subsequently driven to suicide. Other stories relate to the worms crawling out of the backside of insects and I have been warned not to stamp on the camel-cricket (곱등이) as this is a frequent host. The truth? Well, it does invade insects and it does crawl out of backsides and out of the abdomens of squashed hosts. There are plenty of gruesome videos recording this example of God’s sickening handiwork.
The size of these parasites in relation to their hosts is alarming. The next video apparently portrays a cricket committing suicide. How observers deduce it is suicide I don’t know. I’d have thought with this massive invasion rummaging around in its body, the cricket was totally out of its mind.
The natural world inspires both awe and horror but given the number and nature of horrific phenomena, it is truly testament to mankind’s stupidity that we should even dream of erecting and idolozing a creator capable of such perverse manifestations. One of a host of creations excluded from that naive polemic, All Things Bright and Beautiful.
© 林東哲 2010 Creative Commons Licence.