A high-level North Korean official recently died after being given a Chinese-made injection, Daily NK has learned. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reportedly became very angry after learning about the incident and has banned the use of Chinese medicines at major hospitals in Pyongyang.

A high-level source told Daily NK yesterday that the official, who was part of the country’s economic bureaucracy, received a dose of cocarboxylase before dying earlier this month.

The official was in his 60s and was a trusted bureaucrat who had worked in the country’s economic sector since the Kim Jong Il era.

The man recently began suffering from a heart-related illness along with high blood pressure and was being treated at the Pyongyang Medical College Hospital while on sick leave.

Right before he died, the man was injected with a dose of cocarboxylase, which is typically used to help patients recover from fatigue. In North Korea, however, the drug is used as a “cure-all” to treat lung illnesses, high blood pressure, and even contagious infections, based on the source’s account.

Suffering from underlying illnesses, the man failed to recover his strength while at the hospital, and his doctor ultimately gave him a cocarboxylase shot.

The doctor reportedly argued initially that the man should be given medicine made at North Korea’s Ryongheung Pharmaceutical Plant. However, other medical staff argued successfully that domestically-produced injections should not be given to such a high-ranking official.

North Korea is currently suffering from a lack of medicine given sanctions on the country and the impact of COVID-19 on trade. North Korean authorities are emphasizing the importance of using domestically-made medicine as a way to replace the lack of imported ones.

North Korean medicine
Various kinds of medicines sold in North Korean markets. / Image: Daily NK

Many ordinary North Koreans, however, still distrust domestically-made medicine.

When Kim Jong Un found out that the man was given a Chinese injection, he ordered a complete ban on the use of Chinese medicines at major hospitals in Pyongyang.

Kim reportedly expressed sadness over losing such a “talented official,” who had been a trusted government employee, and ordered that Chinese medical products be “removed” from all major hospitals in Pyongyang.

He also ordered for all Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccine samples to be removed from ongoing analysis and research activities focused on producing the country’s own COVID-19 vaccine.

It is still not clear, however, why the man died, even though he did appear to have perished right after getting the cocarboxylase injection.

The authorities are nonetheless currently investigating through which trading company the cocarboxylase doses were imported through.

During the investigation, authorities have also found that major Pyongyang hospitals are not storing various kinds of medicine properly.

Medical staff have been storing medicine without refrigerating them, and there are cases where medicines are being stored in refrigerators or freezers that are not supplied by electricity.

The investigation has cropped up signs that North Korea will have difficulty transporting and storing vaccines when it receives them from abroad.

“Not having storage facilities in medical facilities will be a problem when the country receives vaccines from the World Health Organization [WHO],” the source said. “I’m aware that the WHO also knows about this issue.”

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.
Read in Korean
Seulkee Jang is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.