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FILE PHOTO: The Yalu River between Dandong, China (right) and Sinuiju, North Korea (left). (Daily NK)

North Koreans in Sinuiju are unable to purchase needed medications amid a serious drug shortage, Daily NK has learned.  

A source in North Pyongan Province told Daily NK on Monday that the drug supply in Sinuiju is reaching exhaustion, so much so that people cannot buy medicines no matter how hard they try.

While North Korea has long suffered chronic shortages of drugs, medications have grown even more scarce since trade was suspended and smuggling stopped due to COVID-19.

Stockpiling of drugs by merchants, donju and cadres is making shortages worse.

While this goes on, even officials with regulatory bodies that are supposed to be stopping illegal sales and distribution of drugs are reportedly colluding with the heads of inminban to sell drugs to locals for money.

“The [inminban heads] have been selling drugs since late May,” said the source. “Because of this, people are really complaining, and there are reportedly even fights.”

“Ordinary people don’t really know that selling drugs for money is illegal, so even though everyone protests, they have no choice but to give the heads of the inminban money to get medications,” he said.

Nevertheless, North Korean authorities — presenting little in the way of clear measures — are advising people to prevent and treat infectious diseases with folk remedies.

Relatedly, Rodong Sinmun ran an article on Friday on what to do when you have a bronchial infection. The article introduced folk remedies for when a bacterial or viral infection causes a lot of phlegm in your throat.

Namely, it suggested drinking plenty of water, gargling with salt water, breathing in steam, drinking ginger tea, eating spicy foods like pepper or mustard, and eating foods that reduce mucus secretions like garlic, onion and pumpkin seeds.

With public resentment building due to the drug shortages, North Korea is apparently promoting unproven folk remedies as a last resort.

Translated by David Black. Edited by Robert Lauler.

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Mun Dong Hui is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about his articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.