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Patient Zero: The pharmacist who knowingly spread STDs

Case of Park Seung Jong

By: Ruhika Dhamani

Park Seung Jong sat before a fortune teller and was told the following. "Your future is clear as day, you're going to make videos and go on to be famous". She was correct but not specific enough… Park would go on to be very famous but for all the wrong reasons. This pharmacist would rise to fame due to his arrest for being “patient zero” or in other words a herpes STD super spreader as a result. He also arguably became the most despised YouTuber and medical professional known to this day.

In November of 2018, Park decided to start a youtube channel. This would be his second time trying to start a youtube channel, his first attempt was relatively unsuccessful which then led him to delete it however this second channel quickly became very popular, and he decided to name his channel "Yakult" like the drink. In Korean, 'Yak' means medicine, so this channel name could be considered a slight play on words. Park owned his own pharmacy which would be where he filmed many of his videos and would talk about common misconceptions in medicine and respond to health claims going around. This channel quickly gained traction, reaching close to a quarter million followers in the first few months of having started it.

As Park's channel progressed, he began posting more "controversial videos". In one of these videos, he talked about how netizens should not take Aronamin Gold, which was and still is a very popular supplement. So him making a video about why people should not take this supplement would be like someone else making a video about why people shouldn't take vitamin B12. This video, of course, led to the company speaking out and denying all claims, but regardless this only increased Park's popularity.

Throughout the next two years, Park Seung Jong became increasingly popular firstly due to the gentle and charismatic persona he presented online, which caught the attention of many viewers. His controversial videos then landed him various guest appearances on big news networks, which also helped him collaborate with other famous YouTubers. Needless to say, the saying all press is good press definitely worked in his favour, even though he did receive some controversy regarding his political views since he did openly share them on his youtube channel.

However, Park's career begins its downfall in December of 2019. A girl, let's call her Jenny since she has opted to remain anonymous, is heading over to a pharmacy to stock up on some vitamins and supplements, since that is what professionals are recommending to help boost immunity and become less prone to the coronavirus. At the pharmacy, Jenny spots Park and happens to recognise him from youtube since she is a fan. Seeing the opportunity, she decides to strike up a friendly conversation with him. She did notice him being overly friendly and even thought that he might be interested in her, however, she didn’t think much of it until Park gave her his home address asking her to stop by someday. Eventually, both Jenny and Park started dating, and a few months into their relationship, Jenny had paid various visits to the doctor since she had been consistently getting sick over the past months. It was on one of these days when she received a text message from her friends with a link to a long thread that had been posted online that very day.

On April 24th, Alice, another young woman, posted a thread exposing a YouTuber; although she didn’t mention his name it was very clear to all those reading that she was talking about Park. This thread went on to expose all of the wrongdoings of Park Seung Jong. Alice started off by expressing her deep disappointment with Park and how a medical professional who preached for and advocated for women’s health could do such a thing. For those confused, Alice and Park had engaged in a sexual relationship a few prior to him meeting Jenny. Throughout this relationship, Park never reciprocated any of Alice’s feelings and solely used her for his pleasure. This seemed extremely out of character from his online persona, but according to Alice and the various text messages she provided, Park was the one who began the relationship and he had done so quite forcefully and had undoubtedly taken advantage of the power imbalance. Since day one, he was strongly against using any protective measures despite Alice’s concerns and had essentially gaslit her throughout their whole relationship. When approached with any concerns regarding her well-being and general worries, Park dismissed them providing false information. However, due to his confident approach, Alice believed him. This cycle repeated over the course of a few months until Alice was feeling extremely unwell and decided to stop by the emergency room, which then revealed that she had HSV. When presenting this to Park he blamed her completely despite Alice’s records showing that she had tested negative for HSV over the past few years. She was reluctant to believe that Park was aware of the fact that he had HSV, but her doubts were immediately washed away when he decided to gaslight her and ghost her without any further explanations.

As soon as Jenny received this thread and was made aware of the situation, she began wondering if she had HSV as well, but within a few minutes, she received a text from Park where he denied all the allegations and seemed to be extremely apologetic. This undoubtedly made Jenny feel guilty for suspecting him in the first place. Soon Park decided to get tested and tested negative for HSV1 and HSV2(keep in mind that this was a urine test). A few days later, Jenny decides to get tested, but to her surprise, she tests positive for HSV2. She approaches her doctor about how she would have tested positive while Park tested negative and she was told that the urine test is a lot more inaccurate.

Soon Park decides to post a thread himself explaining the situation, where he denies knowing that he had HSV2 and that he had not spread it since he tested negative and also informs his readers that anyone who posts and promotes defaming accusations will be sued. Not long after, Alice's post is taken down, but not due to the threats of being taken to court, but due to the fact that Park himself was threatening her and telling her that if she did not take down her post he would take his own life. As a result, the post was taken down.

Considering the number of uprisings that this case caused, the police got involved, and Park Seung Jung was sentenced to two years of probation and eight years in prison. This is undoubtedly a low sentence for his crimes, especially considering the fact that if Park does not commit any crimes during his two years of probation he will not need to serve his sentence in prison, and as a result won't have his medical licence taken away. This is one of many cases where medical professionals take advantage of their power and influence solely because they can, and do not suffer the consequences they should. The women affected by this case will never be able to live the same lives, not only due to the unbearable pain from the disease but also from the social stigma and the responsibility and guilt of knowing that they could give this disease to their future partner


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