Phuc Tho, a farming village west of Hanoi, has had its heyday. Busloads of Korean tourists used to visit the bear farms in the area, but they didn't come simply to watch and take photos with the fluffy mammals.
There are currently about 2,385 captive bears held by their owners after the Vietnamese government passed a law banning the bear-bile industry in 2005. These bears cannot survive in forests and have to remain in cages until they die. Some are exploited in the underground bear-bile industry.
The village was known as a bear-bile hotspot. It was the place Korean tourists came to purchase or taste bear bile _ the liquid extracted from bears' gall bladders. In traditional Chinese medicine, bear bile is believed to be an elixir that can heal wounds, cure cancer, fortify livers, reduce flu, and improve eyesight and sexual virility, to name just a few myths.
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