South Korean authorities have seized more than 8,500 pills made from human flesh in the past three years. Most of the pills were smuggled in from China with the belief that they have health benefits and medicinal qualities.

The human flesh used for the pills is thought to have been taken from either aborted or stillborn babies. Though the numbers have come down in the past years, an opposition lawmaker in South Korea said that the illegal smuggling is still taking place.

"We have to root out the smuggling of human flesh pills, and make people aware it is a crime against humanity," said Park Myung-jae from the Liberty Korean Party, revealing the latest figures on Tuesday, 3 October.

"It is a misconception that human flesh enhances stamina. It is actually dangerous to health," said Park, according to the Korea Times.

According to the figures available with the government, 8,511 capsules of human flesh have been confiscated between 2014 and June 2017. While more than 6,600 pills were seized in 2014, the numbers dropped to hundreds in the next few years.

Initially, most of the smuggling was carried out through international mail but then the smugglers switched to using travellers to transfer the pills. Authorities have clamped tougher measures to crack down on the practice.

The first such report emerged in 2012 when South Korea's customs agency found that thousands of such "health capsules" containing human flesh were being brought into the country.

At the time, the customs agency said in its report that the capsules were made of "ground stillborn foetuses or babies that had been cut into small pieces and dried in gas ranges for two days, then made into powders and encapsulated".