North Korea pushes conventional medication to battle COVID-19

North Korea pushes conventional medication to battle COVID-19

North Korea pushes conventional medication to battle COVID-19
Staff of Junggu Koryo Drugs Pharmaceutical Manufacturing facility produce Koryo medicines in Pyongyang, on June 7, 2022. North Korea has been driving to extend the manufacturing of each fashionable and conventional (Koryo) medication to battle the COVID-19 sickness. Credit score: AP Picture/Cha Track Ho, File

As a medical scholar in North Korea, Lee Gwang-jin mentioned he handled his fevers and different minor illnesses with conventional natural medication. However unhealthy sickness might imply hassle as a result of hospitals in his rural hometown lacked the ambulances, beds, even the electrical energy at instances wanted to deal with important or emergency sufferers.

So Lee was skeptical when he heard current North Korean state media experiences that claimed such so-called Koryo conventional medication is enjoying a key function within the nation’s battle in opposition to COVID-19, which has killed hundreds of thousands all over the world.

“North Korea is utilizing Koryo medication loads (for COVID-19) … but it surely’s not a positive treatment,” mentioned Lee, who studied Koryo medication earlier than he fled North Korea in 2018 for a brand new life in South Korea. “Somebody who’s destined to outlive will survive (with such medication), however North Korea can not help others who’re dying.”

Like many different components of life in North Korea, the medication that the state says is curing its sick folks is getting used as a political image. That, consultants say, will ultimately permit the nation to say its leaders have overwhelmed the outbreak, the place different nations have repeatedly failed, by offering homegrown treatments, impartial of out of doors assist.

As state media churn out tales in regards to the effectiveness of the medication and the massive manufacturing efforts to make extra of it, there are questions on whether or not folks affected by extreme illness are getting the remedy they want.

North Korea pushes traditional medicine to fight COVID-19
A pharmacist waits for patrons on the Man Nyon Pharmacy, the nation’s largest dispensary of conventional “Koryo” medication, in Pyongyang, North Korea on Feb. 21, 2013. North Korea has lately reported fewer than 200 day by day fever instances amid its first home COVID-19 outbreak and says its conventional “Koryo” natural medicines are enjoying a key function in curing sufferers. Credit score: AP Picture/David Guttenfelder, File

Defectors and consultants imagine North Korea is mobilizing Koryo medication just because it does not have sufficient fashionable medication to battle COVID-19.

“Treating delicate signs with Koryo medication is not a foul possibility. … However the coronavirus does not trigger solely delicate signs,” mentioned Yi Junhyeok, a conventional physician and researcher at South Korea’s Korea Institute of Oriental Drugs. “After we take into consideration important and high-risk sufferers, North Korea wants vaccines, emergency care methods and different medical sources that it could possibly use to” decrease fatalities.

Greater than two months have handed since North Korea admitted its first coronavirus outbreak, and the nation has reported a mean of 157 fever instances every day up to now seven days, a major drop from the height of about 400,000 a day in Might. It additionally maintains a broadly disputed declare that solely 74 out of about 4.8 million fever sufferers have died, a fatality price of 0.002% that will be the world’s lowest if true.

North Korea pushes traditional medicine to fight COVID-19
A pharmacist on the Kaeson Clinic within the Moranbong District of Pyongyang, North Korea gathers conventional “Koryo” medication for a affected person ready on the window on Feb. 21, 2013. North Korea has lately reported fewer than 200 day by day fever instances amid its first home COVID-19 outbreak and says its conventional “Koryo” natural medicines are enjoying a key function in curing sufferers. Credit score: AP Picture/David Guttenfelder, File

Regardless of widespread outdoors doubt in regards to the reality of North Korea’s reported statistics, there aren’t any indicators that the outbreak has brought on disaster in North Korea. Some outdoors consultants say the North might quickly formally declare victory over COVID-19 in an effort to spice up inner unity. North Korea might then emphasize the function of Koryo medication as the rationale.

“North Korea calls Koryo medication ‘juche (self-reliant) medication,’ treats it importantly and views it as considered one of its political symbols,” mentioned Kim Dongsu, a professor on the School of Korean Drugs at South Korea’s Dongshin College. “North Korea does not have many tutorial and cultural achievements to promote so it’s going to probably actively propagate Koryo medication.”

North Korea formally integrated Koryo medication—named after an historical Korean kingdom—in its public healthcare system within the Fifties. Its significance has sharply grown because the mid-Nineties, when North Korea started struggling an enormous scarcity of contemporary medication throughout a crippling famine and financial turmoil that killed a whole lot of 1000’s of individuals.

North Korea pushes traditional medicine to fight COVID-19
College students and youth attend a dancing occasion in celebration of the one hundred and tenth delivery anniversary of its late founder Kim Il Sung at Kim Il Sung Sq. in Pyongyang, North Korea on April 15, 2022. North Korea has lately reported fewer than 200 day by day fever instances amid its first home COVID-19 outbreak and says its conventional “Koryo” natural medicines are enjoying a key function in curing sufferers. Credit score: AP Picture/Jon Chol Jin, File

Koryo medication refers to natural concoctions that typically embody animal components, acupuncture, cupping, moxibustion and meridian massages. Such historical treatments are utilized in many Asian and Western nations, too. However whereas in these nations conventional and fashionable medicines function independently, North Korea has mixed them.

Medical college students are required to review each fashionable and conventional medication in school, no matter what they main in. So as soon as they change into skilled medical doctors, they will observe each. Every hospital in North Korea has a division of Koryo medication. There are additionally Koryo medicine-only hospitals.

Kim Jieun, a defector who’s a conventional physician in South Korea, mentioned she majored in Koryo medication in school within the North however ultimately labored as a pediatrician and inner medication physician. She mentioned that South Koreans usually use conventional medication to keep up or enhance their well being, however North Koreans use it to deal with numerous illnesses.

North Korea pushes traditional medicine to fight COVID-19
Kim Jieun, a defector who’s a conventional physician in South Korea, sits for a photograph after an interview in Seoul, South Korea on July 8, 2022. Kim mentioned that South Koreans usually use conventional medication to keep up or enhance their well being, however North Koreans use it to deal with numerous illnesses. Credit score: AP Picture/Lee Jin-man

“In South Korea, sufferers with cerebral hemorrhage, hepatocirrhosis, liver most cancers, ascites, diabetes and kidney infections do not come to conventional clinics. However in North Korea, conventional medical doctors deal with them,” mentioned Kim, who resettled in South Korea in 2002 and now works for Seoul’s Properly Saem Hospital of Korean Drugs.

North Korea’s essential Rodong Sinmun newspaper has lately revealed a slew of articles praising natural medication and acupuncture for curing fever sufferers and decreasing the aftereffects of COVID-19 sicknesses, together with irregular pains, coronary heart and kidney issues, nausea and coughing.

The newspaper additionally revealed calls by chief Kim Jong Un to embrace Koryo medication. Different state media experiences mentioned the manufacturing of Koryo medication has quadrupled since final 12 months, whereas an unlimited quantity of contemporary medication has additionally been speedily delivered to native medical establishments, a declare that can not be independently verified.

North Korea pushes traditional medicine to fight COVID-19
Kim Jieun, a defector who’s a conventional physician in South Korea, solutions a reporter’s query throughout an interview in Seoul, South Korea on July 8, 2022. Kim mentioned that South Koreans usually use conventional medication to keep up or enhance their well being, however North Koreans use it to deal with numerous illnesses. Credit score: AP Picture/Lee Jin-man

North Korea’s nominally free socialist medical system stays in shambles, with defectors testifying that they’d to purchase their very own medication and pay medical doctors for surgical procedures and different remedies. They are saying North Korea’s superior hospitals are largely concentrated in Pyongyang, the capital, the place the ruling elite and upper-class residents loyal to the Kim household stay.

Lee, 29, who attended a medical faculty within the northern North Korean metropolis of Hyesan, mentioned Koryo medical doctors reused their acupuncture needles after sterilizing them with alcohol, and hospitals sometimes charged sufferers for using electrical energy for a medical examination.

H.Okay. Yoon, a former North Korean physician who fled the nation within the mid-2010s, mentioned her mid-level hospital within the northeast had no ambulance, no oxygen concentrator and solely three to 4 beds within the emergency room. She mentioned she shared surgical gear with different medical doctors, and her month-to-month wage was the equal of 800 grams (1.76 kilos) of rice.

  • North Korea pushes traditional medicine to fight COVID-19
    On this photograph offered by the North Korean authorities, station employees disinfect the ground of Pyongyang station to curb the unfold of coronavirus an infection, in Pyongyang, North Korea on Might 17, 2022. Impartial journalists weren’t given entry to cowl the occasion depicted on this picture distributed by the North Korean authorities. The content material of this picture is as offered and can’t be independently verified. Korean language watermark on picture as offered by supply reads: “KCNA” which is the abbreviation for Korean Central Information Company. Credit score: Korean Central Information Company/Korea Information Service by way of AP, File
  • North Korea pushes traditional medicine to fight COVID-19
    On this photograph offered by the North Korean authorities, North Korean chief Kim Jong Un, middle, visits a pharmacy in Pyongyang, North Korea Might 15, 2022. Impartial journalists weren’t given entry to cowl the occasion depicted on this picture distributed by the North Korean authorities. The content material of this picture is as offered and can’t be independently verified. Korean language watermark on picture as offered by supply reads: “KCNA” which is the abbreviation for Korean Central Information Company. Credit score: Korean Central Information Company/Korea Information Service by way of AP, File
  • North Korea pushes traditional medicine to fight COVID-19
    On this undated photograph offered on Sept. 10, 2020, by the North Korean authorities, a well being employee checks the temperature of individuals to guard in opposition to the coronavirus in Pyongyang, North Korea. Impartial journalists weren’t given entry to cowl the occasion depicted on this picture distributed by the North Korean authorities. The content material of this picture is as offered and can’t be independently verified. Korean language watermark on picture as offered by supply reads: “KCNA” which is the abbreviation for Korean Central Information Company. Credit score: Korean Central Information Company/Korea Information Service by way of AP, File
  • North Korea pushes traditional medicine to fight COVID-19
    Lee Gwang-jin, who studied Koryo medication earlier than he fled North Korea in 2018, solutions a reporter’s query throughout an interview in Paju, South Korea on July 14, 2022. As a medical scholar in North Korea, Lee mentioned he handled his fevers and different minor illnesses with conventional natural medication. However unhealthy sickness might imply hassle as a result of hospitals in his rural hometown lacked the ambulances, beds, even the electrical energy at instances wanted to deal with important or emergency sufferers. So Lee was skeptical when he heard current North Korean state media experiences that claimed such so-called Koryo conventional medication is enjoying a key function within the nation’s battle in opposition to COVID-19. Credit score: AP Picture/Lee Jin-man
  • North Korea pushes traditional medicine to fight COVID-19
    On this photograph offered by the North Korean authorities, North Korean chief Kim Jong Un, left, delivers a speech through the ground-breaking ceremony of a normal hospital in Pyongyang, North Korea March 17, 2020. Impartial journalists weren’t given entry to cowl the occasion depicted on this picture distributed by the North Korean authorities. The content material of this picture is as offered and can’t be independently verified. Credit score: Korean Central Information Company/Korea Information Service by way of AP, File

“My coronary heart aches once I recall the shortage of surgical gear,” mentioned Yoon, who requested that her first identify be recognized solely by initials due to security worries about kin in North Korea. “When my sufferers have been important, I needed to carry out surgical procedures shortly. However I could not do it as a result of surgical gear was being utilized by another person, and I anxious about how quickly I might sterilize and use it.”

Some consultants earlier predicted that the COVID-19 outbreak might trigger dire penalties in North Korea as a result of most of its 26 million persons are unvaccinated and about 40% of its persons are reportedly undernourished. Now, they speculate that North Korea is probably going underreporting its dying depend to forestall political harm to Kim Jong Un.

Lee, the previous North Korean medical scholar, mentioned folks in Hyesan did not go to hospitals except they have been extraordinarily sick.

“When they’re reasonably unwell, they only obtain acupuncture or Koryo natural medication. They belief Koryo medication however in addition they do not make a lot cash and Koryo medication is cheaper than Western medication,” Lee mentioned.


N. Korea experiences one other illness outbreak amid COVID-19 wave


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