Would Koro Victims Like To Speak Up?

Posted by SM Maulana
Tuesday, 17 June 2008

SEVERAL participants are unhappy that we discuss too much about politics in this blog. They think that we should be discussing other subjects as well. We do. But politics seems to attract people’s attention these days.

Maybe when nothing else works or when there’s nothing much to be done, people play politics or, in the case of golfers, they play more golf.

One angry participant who called himself “Tanjung Rambutan Mate” has this to say: “Dear Kadir, aku dah nak gila bila baca cerita Najib Pak Lah dan Mahathir.

“Can you write something beautiful and interesting. Like your frien Johan. He wrote about P Ramlee, about Sopia Sophian etc.etc.

”Apa kata you tulis cerita pasal penderitaan Batin Ku oleh Orang Orang Melayu, Pegawai Pegawai Kerajaan, Mak Chik di kampong.……………..”

Well if he (she) thinks I’ll be offended by his (her) comparing me to my friend Johan Jaaffar, I am not. I will be the first to acknowledge that Johan writes beautifully on arts, culture and language. In fact, I learn a lot from him on these subjects.

So there’s no point for me trying to write about P. Ramlee or Sophia Loren. But I do want to talk about a non-political subject in this posting even though the warning by Mohd Najib Abdul Razak that the “ekonomi tertekan” (economy under pressure) (Utusan Malaysia) is thought provoking.

But no matter how hard one tries, getting away from politics and politicians is next to impossible.

Therefore, from the outset may I state that any resemblance or connection this subject has with politics and politicians (departed or alive) is a coincidence.

The subject of this posting is koro. The latest to discuss this subject is the New York-based Harper’s Magazine.

In his gallant effort to keep the interest in koro alive and to warn us of the danger of being struck down by this dreadful malady, the magazine’s writer, Frank Bures, took us halfway around the world from Africa to China.

Like many researchers and writers before him, Bures, who frequently writes about Africa, suggested that koro is of Southeast Asian origin.

He said a certain Benjamin Matthes who was compiling a dictionary of Buginese came across the term lasa koro in 1874 on the island of Sulawesi, the year that koro was reported to have caused mass panic.

The effects of Koro are so dreadful that sufferers were known to have resorted to extreme measures, including murder. At the very least, to save themselves from embarrassment and humiliation, they accused others of causing them the koro.

There had been reports as recent as 2001 that mobs lynched witchdoctors and innocent bystanders accused of thefts that caused the victims to suffer the koro. At least 12 suspected thieves were lynched in Nigeria, according to the Harper’s Magazine report.

Yet investigations by the police and examination by doctors continuously found that nothing was lost to koro and the prized possession remained intact. But these do not stop the belief in koro to continue to spread among West African cultures.

A similar and more historic koro syndrome occurs specifically among populations of southern

China while the bio-medical cultures such as the United States maintain their own versions of koro.

My own reading on the subject did not find any report of the koro outbreak occurring in Malaysia although there were reports of it happening in Singapore in July 1967, Thailand in November 1976, and in India and China during the 1980s.

Could it be that the incidence of koro went unreported and unspoken in Malaysia because the victims were too ashamed to admit it or that koro is so common that it’s not worth talking about?



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