North Korean Food and Medicines Found Harmful, Ineffective

nk-goods-dandong-april-2013.jpg Goods bound for North Korea at a customs checkpoint near the border in Dandong, China, in a file photo.

Adulterated foodstuffs and medicines produced in North Korea are sickening consumers and leaving health problems untreated, leading to widespread preference for more expensive products made outside the country, North Korean sources say.

In North Korea’s Yanggang province, lying along the border with China, bread baked at one factory in Hyesan city has caused outbreaks of vomiting and hives, a source in Yanggang told RFA’s Korean Service.

“People who ate the bread produced at the Hyesan Food Factory were left with symptoms of vomiting and hives, so the Hygiene Epidemics Prevention Office has begun an investigation,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Hyesan factory produces refined soybean oil, bread, red pepper paste, cellophane noodles, and other foods, the source said.

Hyesan’s bread, which is made from a mixture of corn and wheat and is popular with college students and other North Korean residents because of its low price, was formerly made with yeast produced in China, the source said.

“But factory workers say they began to use self-produced yeast this year,” he said.

“However, this is all being done without permission from the Quality Supervision Department of the North Korean People’s Committee or the Hygiene Epidemics Prevention Office,” he added.

'No effect at all'

Speaking separately, a source in Jagang province told RFA that domestic medicines too are failing to meet desired standards, “and people are purchasing only expensive Chinese medicines.”

A single pack of aspirins made by the Sunchon Pharmaceutical Company in South Pyongan province contains 100 pills and costs 3,000 won (U.S. 37 cents in unofficial rate), RFA’s source said, also speaking on condition he not be named.

“But these are not effective against fever, no matter how many pills one consumes.”

“It is much better to take two pills of Chinese medicine than to take 100 pills produced domestically,” he said.

Medicines said to “clear the heart” and used in traditional medicine are also widely prescribed, but are trusted more and available more cheaply as imports from China, the source said.

“There are lots of domestic medicines, but they have no effect at all,” he said.

“As a result, North Korean residents are only interested in Chinese medicines.”

Reported by Sunghui Moon for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Soo Min Jo. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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