President Serzh Sarkisian has undergone stem cell therapy in South Korea aimed at rejuvenating his body, a Korean newspaper revealed on Friday.
The daily “Chosun Ilbo” reported that Sarkisian became this month the first foreign head of state to receive treatment at Chaum Center, a rejuvenation clinic located in the Gangnam district of the capital Seoul. A photograph published by it showed him seated in a medical arm-chair and surrounded by South Korean doctors, his chief bodyguard and Ara Abrahamian, a Russian-Armenian businessman.
“The group visited Chaum every day during their weeklong stay here and had treatment including stem cell therapy, spa and anti-aging therapy, body polishes and massages and weight-control programs,” wrote the paper. It said the treatment which lasted from January 9-17 cost around $186,000, a sum exceeding Sarkisian’s annual salary.
The presidential administration essentially confirmed the information. Sarkisian press secretary, Arman Saghatelian told Epress.am that the president visited the South Korean clinic for “preventive medical purposes” while on vacation.
Saghatelian said that the individuals accompanying Sarkisian were also treated there. “The cost of medical services provided to Serzh Sarkisian made up only a very small portion of the [reported] total and it was paid from his officially declared assets,” he claimed.
That Sarkisian has had stem cell therapy was first suggested last week by the Yerevan newspaper “Haykakan Zhamanak,” which quoted unnamed sources close to the Armenian government. Saghatelian, dismissed this as “ludicrous gossips” in comments to A1Plus.am on Tuesday.
Saghatelian shrugged off suggestions that the Armenian leader may have health problems. The spokesman for ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), Eduard Sharmazanov, likewise insisted on Friday that Sarkisian is “very healthy.”
Levon Zurabian, a leader of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), questioned those claims. “If he had problems with health they should have been presented to our society. It turns out that they tried to hide them but failed to do even that,” Zurabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). He described news of the rejuvenation treatment as “scandalous.”
Incidentally, Sarkisian sacked Armenia’s ambassador to South Korea shortly after the “Haykakan Zhamanak” report. There was no official explanation for the move.
Sarkisian went on vacation on January 7. The presidential press service said at the time that he will spend it in an unspecified foreign state. It gave no details.