Archive for the ‘Disease prevention’ Category

‘Vaccine diplomacy’ to launch in North Korea

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

Joong Ang Daily
Jung Ha-won

The International Vaccine Institute, a Seoul-based international organization that develops and produces vaccines for developing countries, will begin innoculating an estimated 6,000 North Korean children against bacterial meningitis and Japanese encephalitis later this month, John Clemens, the director general of the institute, said in an interview with the JoongAng Daily.

Clemens, who has spearheaded the $500,000 project since last May, said vaccines can build understanding, and the latest project will help establish “vaccine diplomacy” between South and North Korea, too.

“One thing people commonly do not recognize is that malnutrition is a problem not only of not enough food. Infectious diseases, especially diarrheal diseases, are a major exacerbator of malnutrition in children,” he said. Clemens and four other researchers at the institute have visited North Korea since October to set up programs to vaccinate 3,000 children each in Nampo and Sariwon, near Pyongyang. “Food is obviously essential in addressing malnutrition, but we need to tackle both supply of food and control of infectious diseases.”

Clemens stressed that vital vaccines have often been used as a tool to forge peace in the most conflict-ravaged areas.

“Because vaccines are non-controversial and non-political they are an ideal mechanism to bring people together,” he said. “So we feel in a very small way that our work with North Korea is also an example of vaccine diplomacy, and we have a very good and trusting relationship with our North Korean colleagues in our joint efforts to vaccinate North Korean kids.”

The institute, established in 1999 and headquartered in South Korea, develops vaccines against diseases common in developing countries.


North frees Canadian aid worker held 2 months

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Joong Ang Daily

A Canadian citizen detained for more than two months in North Korea has been released, the Canadian Embassy in Seoul said yesterday.

Kim Je-Yell was deported to China on Saturday and was met at the border by Canadian consular officials, said Shauna Hemingway, head of public affairs at the embassy.

“Canadian officials are facilitating his reunion with his family,” she said, without saying where he is now.

“We are grateful to North Korean authorities for providing us with consular access to Mr. Kim.”

She declined to give further details, saying Kim’s family had asked for privacy.

Kim, a Korean-born Canadian in his 50s, appeared to have fallen afoul of the state due to his religious connections, according to media reports.

He was detained in the remote northeast part of the country on Nov. 3, the Toronto Star reported last week.

The news had not been announced earlier pending diplomatic efforts to have him freed, the newspaper said. The Star cited the humanitarian group he worked for, Christian Aid, as saying Kim was held on charges related to “national security.”

Kim had been bringing in dental supplies and setting up clinics in northeastern North Korea for nearly a decade with official approval, the report said.

A Voice of America radio report said Kim had written in a statement during interrogation that he had criticized the North Korean regime and tried to establish a church in the North.

Canada’s ambassador to South Korea, Ted Lipman, visited Pyongyang last week in an apparent effort to secure his release.

The North’s constitution provides for freedom of religious belief. “However, in practice the government severely restricts religious freedom, including organized religious activity, except that which is supervised tightly by officially recognized groups linked to the government,” the U.S. State Department said in its 2007 report on religious freedom.

“Genuine religious freedom does not exist.”


Launch of Support Program for North Korea’s Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis Patients

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

Eugene Bell Foundation
Fall 2007 newsletter

Medical Support for Individual Patients Now Possible

The Eugene Bell Foundation, a non-governmental organization that provides medical support for North Korean tuberculosis (TB) patients, announces that countermeasures are urgently needed for the recent increase of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) patients in North Korea.   

After years of visiting and providing TB medicines for TB Care Centers in North Korea, EugeneBell estimates that over 30% of all TB patients in the country may be infected with MDR-TB. Evidence suggests the number of patients is increasing year-by-year.  

In response to this growing crisis, the delegation visited six different North Korean TB Care Centers in early 2007 and collected sputum samples from 20 patients thought to be infected with MDR-TB and brought them to South Korea for study. The test results identified at least two or more strains of MDR-TB virus in over 60% of the samples.   

In response, EugeneBell began a support program for MDR-TB patients when a delegation returned to North Korea (November 15 – 27, 2007). This fall, a follow-up delegation delivered a six-month supply of special MDR TB medication for the patient’s diagnosed with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.  

As part of the new support program, EugeneBell and North Korean medical authorities have agreed to establish special wards for multi-drug resistant patients in four long-term care facilities. One center will be located in each of the following locations: North Pyongan Province, South Pyongan Province, Nampo City and Pyongyang City. These MDR wards will serve as centers for treating patients who do not respond to regular tuberculosis medications.

“Multi-drug resistant tuberculosis is a deadly, contagious disease that can spread resistant strains of tuberculosis that are extremely difficult and expensive to treat,” states Dr. Linton, EugeneBell Chairman. “Because MDR-TB threatens the health of every citizen, steps must be taken as soon as possible to meet this challenge.”

Unfortunately, even short-term countermeasures to meet the spread of MDR-TB in North Korea are difficult because no in-country testing facilities are available today. An even greater barrier to an effective national MDR program is the high cost of MDR medications. While it takes only six months to treat and cure a case of ordinary TB, MDR-TB requires at least 18 month, and special drugs that cost nearly 100 times as much as regular tuberculosis medications. In order to solve such difficulties, EugeneBell will initiate a ‘One-by-One MDR-TB Patient Support Program’ beginning in 2008.  This program will connect one patient in North Korea with individual donors to insure that each patient in the program receives the necessary support for long-term treatment.

Dr. Linton notes, “This small but significant start toward an effective MDR-TB program for people in North Korea that will begin with 20 patients and grow as additional support becomes available. Every human life is precious. While we hope we can eventually reach all MDR patients in North Korea, just saving one person who would otherwise die from this dreaded disease is well worth the effort.”

“North Korean medical professionals are delighted with the new program. Doctors who formerly had no effective way of helping their patients who failed to respond to ordinary tuberculosis medications now have hope that even the most ill tuberculosis patient may be saved. The enthusiasm with which they pitch in to collect sputum samples from their most difficult cases is heart-warming” continues Dr. Linton.

Dr. Park Seung-kyu, Director of Masan National Tuberculosis Hospital in South Korea, will make his hospital’s state-of-the-art research facilities available for testing sputum samples from North Korea. “As a matter of fact, MDR-TB is considered a serious problem not only for North Korea but also for South Korea and the world,” says Dr. Park. “There is a need for experts from both South and North Korea to discuss countermeasures together for the treatment of MDR-TB on the Korean Peninsula”

A EugeneBell delegation just returned from visiting thirteen medical institutions located in North Pyongan Province and Pyongyang City. Next spring, a follow-up delegation will deliver medications for the patients who provided samples this autumn.

EugeneBell also started two other pilot programs in 2007, one for mothers and infants and another for school-aged children. These will provide a steady stream of assistance through ‘Mother and Infant Packages’ and ‘Children’s Health Packages’ to three local hospitals, one in North Pyongan Province and two in South Pyongan Province.


North Korea’s Hyesan Jangmadang Prohibits Sale of Medical Products

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

Daily NK
Moon Sung Hwee

An internal source conveyed on the 30th that due to an extreme decree which prohibits all sales of medical goods, the suffering of citizens has been increasing.

The source maintained that “In August, the sale of medical products was banned, and by the start of anti-socialism inspections in September, no medical products could be found in the jangmadang.”

The North Korean authorities have long since stated its position in prohibiting the sale of medical goods, saying that the sale of medical goods in the jangmadang is a show of democracy that undermines the national medical system. However, regulations usually never went beyond formalities.

Recently, however, anti-socialism inspections have been conducted on a large-scale in Yankang with the theme of “Abolishing capitalist trends in the market.” Medical products, which are mostly from China and South Korea, have been regulated more aggressively. Some have said that the authorities have strengthened regulations due to frequent incidences involving Chinese sub-standard medical products.”

With the harbinger of regulation of medical products, pharmaceutical vendors have sold medical products to their acquaintances on a limited basis. The price has increased significantly as well. Chinese-made aspirin, “Zhengtongbian”, which costs 20 North Korean won per pill, has hiked up to 30 won. A bottle of anti-diarrhea medicine has increased from 150 won to 300 won and penicillin from 120 to 200 won.

Especially the smuggling of Electrolyte Solution, used in IV’s to hydrate hospital patients, has stopped due to regulations, causing a jump in price.

From mid-August to the end of October, the anti-socialism inspections in Hyesan, Yankang were cooperatively conducted by the central Party, the Prosecutor’s Office, the National Security Agency and the People’s Safety Agency. Along with the strict regulation of cell phones, the market, and capitalist “corruption,” the medical goods ban has cast a heavy burden on the civilians.

“Good Friends” reported in October that “Thirty people have been incarcerated as a result of the anti-socialism inspections in Yankang since mid-August, and regulations have tightened.”

When the sale of medical products completely ceased in the markets, citizens and doctors who must treat their patients have been extremely disgruntled.

The source said, “People have to go to the homes of pharmacists in order to buy medicine, but they cannot if the pharmacists do not know them personally. The price has increased dramatically due to the regulations of medicinal products.”

“Even hospitals do not carry medicine and there is no way to procure them, even at doctors’ request.” Doctors have complained, saying “Are we supposed to just sit by and watch the sick people?”

A majority of medical products that could be found in the markets were Chinese-made contraband goods. In some cases, Party leaders or army hospital leaders have illegally procured medicine as well.

The source commented that when civilian discontent rose, the Party Municipal Committee explained the cause of the cease in sale of medical goods as, “In a socialist society, hospitals have guaranteed medical goods, but during this temporary time of suffering, some immoral people have hoarded the national medical supply and are making a profit.”


South Korea’s Average Life Span 78 years – North Korea’s 64…a 14-year Difference

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

Daily NK
Namgung Min

North Korean civilians’ average life span was disclosed to be approximately 14-years lower than the average life span in South Korea.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare said through inspection documents of the administration on “North Korea’s Health and Medical Situation,” which was recently submitted to the National Assembly.

According to this document, the North Korean civilians’ average life span is 61.4 years for males and 67.3 for females, an average of 64.3 years. For South Korea, the average is 78.1 years, with 74.4 for males and 81.8 for females.

The significant difference in average life span for North and South Korea reflects the fact that the severely worsened medical environment in North Korea.

According to the document, North Korean teenage boys’ smoking rate is supposed to be at an extremely alarming level. In the case of 16-year old males, the smoking rate is around 59.9%. This exceeds by 20.7% the smoking rate of South Korea high school students, provided by the Korean Association of Smoking and Health.

Cigarettes in North Korea, in contrast to South Korean cigarettes, contain a very high level of tar and nicotine content as well as higher toxicity, due to the fact that cigarettes lack filters or are hand-made.

One defector said, “In North Korea, even very young children smoke cigarettes without reservation and easily come in contact with them because they do not have much else to do.”

The document also revealed that 32~40% of North Korea’s 20~34 year olds show signs of malnutrition and approximately 34~36% of them are anemic patients.

These results can be attributed to North Korea’s continuous food shortage situation; disease rates due to malnutrition and anemic are high.

North Korea’s birth rate is 1.94, higher than South Korea’s 1.19. However, the infant mortality rate, between `99~`02, was 23.5 per 1,000 persons, but conversely, the `06 mortality rate was 42 persons, 14 times higher than South Korea’s (at 3 persons).
The health span (a period without sickness or handicap) is 52.3 years old (based on 2000 data), a significant decrease from South Korea’s 67.8 years (in 2005).

The reason why North Korea’s health and medical situation is so tenuous as shown above is due to the lack of the state’s investment in this area. The actual situation is that there is an unmistakable gap between North Korea’s single dollar payment for a person’s health and medical fee and South Korea’s $625.

Further, in North Korea, it is extremely difficult to obtain basic medical goods, such as cold medicine or antibiotics.

One defector who escaped in 2005 said, “In North Korea, even if one wants to go to the hospital, he or she cannot receive treatment without any money and there is not even a full equipment of medicine. It is much easier to buy medicine in the jangmadang than in a hospital, because there is more variety and it is more easily obtainable. Only, the price of medicine, compared to other products, transcends the imagination.”

The Ministry of Health and Welfare plans to invest 294 million won (approx. USD316,120) to modernize the People’s Hospital in Gosung and Songdo in Kaesung next year, besides continuing medical support for North Korea.


Expert says N.K. becoming more open, better at dealing with national disasters

Monday, September 24th, 2007


North Korea is becoming more transparent and effective in dealing with disasters, spurred by both internal and external factors, an Asia-Pacific regional specialist said in his latest paper.

Dr. Alexandre Mansourov, a securities studies professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS) in Hawaii, noted five trends in the North Korean government’s responses over the past decade to nationwide shocks, including floods, typhoons, drought and avian influenza outbreaks.

Increasing transparency is one of the trends, with Pyongyang more quickly admitting to disasters that have struck the nation, he said in a paper (download here) released last week through the Korea Economic Institute in Washington.

It took North Korea several years to admit the impact of natural disasters in the mid-1990s that led to massive starvation and chronic food shortages. But in August 2000, when it was hit by Typhoon Prapiroon, North Korea released the news three weeks after it occurred, and in the two following years, when other typhoons struck, North Korea reported it within three to six days, Mansourov said.

Pyongyang immediately acknowledged flooding in August 2007, he said.

“Observers agree that the timeliness, details, and amount of coverage of flood damage and rehabilitation work in August 2007 is unprecedented.”

North Korea is also showing institutional knowledge and a capacity for disaster management, with new organizations growing out of a decade of learning and experience, such as various provincial centers, the professor said.

The North Korean Red Cross Society has been exceptional, he said, working with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and has made itself the leading agency in disaster preparedness and response.

Inter-agency coordination has also increased, with deputy prime minister-level working groups working closely together in each disaster since the flood of 2001, as there are preventive programs through which basic relief supplies are stored in town and villages.

For example, the 10-year strategy against avian influenza, worked out by the emergency commission in 2005, would have been unthinkable a decade ago, Mansourov wrote.

Another notable trend is the increasing cooperation between the North Korean government and international humanitarian community, gradually allowing joint needs assessments and monitoring, he noted.

Mansourov argued that external factors helped bring about the changes.

“International factors did make a difference in what happened in (North Korea), especially through the introduction of innovative ideas and dissemination of best humanitarian practices,” in addition to foreign aid, he said.

The scholar also argued that while the country’s top leader, Kim Jong-il, does control any institutional changes, there is also adaptation driven by needs.

“There has been some degree of autonomous institutional learning and adaptation; it is incremental in nature and caused by both positive and negative feedback from the environment regarding institutional performance in crisis situations,” he said.


Flood-stricken N. Korea likely to suffer from contagion of infectious diseases

Friday, September 21st, 2007


North Korea is at serious risk from contagious diseases following damage from recent floods, an official from North Korea’s Red Cross told a newspaper in Japan on Friday.

In an interview with the Chosun Sinbo, a pro-North Korean newspaper in Japan, Kim Eun-chul, a vice secretary-general at the Red Cross Society of North Korea, said, “What we are most concerned with now is the spread of infectious diseases in the severely damaged areas.”

“The destruction of the water supply facilities could result in various diseases including skin diseases and diarrhea, as well as flue.”

Kim showed his anxiety, saying that the communist country would not be able to cope with the diseases when they broke out, as many of the North’s public health centers are also destroyed from floods.

“More than 560 hospitals were destroyed and 2,100 medical offices were damaged. The medical supplies were wet and useless. We can’t even read charts as they were soaked,” he said.

“New patients with diarrhea are reported one after another. We are now relying solely on the emergency medicines provided by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC).”

The IFRC shipped US$1,69 million worth of medical aid to North Korea earlier this month, which can be used for three months, according to Kim.


Vaccine institute to help Pyongyang fight deadly flu

Friday, August 24th, 2007

Korea Herald
Ahn Hyo Lim

An international vaccine agency and North Korea have agreed to launch a joint project to fight diseases common among children in developing countries.

The International Vaccine Institute, based in Seoul, said yesterday that they will cooperate to conduct pilot vaccinations against Japanese encephalitis and haemophilus influenzae type b, which causes meningitis, on some 3,000 North Korean children by early next year.

Their project will also involve the establishment of a reference diagnostic laboratory in the communist country.

“Creation of a reference laboratory for diagnosis of Hib and Japanese encephalitis should not only help improve clinical management of children with these infections, but should also assist DPRK health authorities to better estimate the burden of these diseases in the DPRK,” said Dr. John Clemens, IVI director general.

Officials of the global vaccine R&D organization will visit Beijing later in the month to meet with North Korean health officials and discuss details of how they will cooperate, including the provision of vaccines and equipment, and the opening of the lab.

Haemophilus influenzae type b is the leading cause of bacterial meningitis among infants and children worldwide, killing an estimated 386,000 children every year.

Japanese encephalitis, primarily infects children in endemic areas across Asia, leaving approximately 60 percent of those who develop clinical illness either dead or neurologically disabled.

The IVI is an international organization devoted exclusively to developing and introducing new and improved vaccines to protect the world’s poorest people, especially children in developing countries.

It was established in 1997 as an initiative of the United Nations Development Program.


IFES Monthly report

Wednesday, August 1st, 2007

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)


Following two days of talks between economic representatives of the two Koreas at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, South Korea announced on July 7 that it would begin shipping raw materials to the North in exchange for DPRK natural resources. South Korea shipped 800,000 USD of polyester fabric on July 25, and is set to send the rest of the materials by the end of November. North Korea accepted South Korean prices for the goods, and will pay transportation, cargo working, and demurrage costs, as well. South Korea will pay for shipping, insurance, and the use of port facilities. On 28 July, a South Korean delegation left for the North in order to conduct on-site surveys of three zinc and magnesite mines. The team will spend two weeks in North Korea.

It was reported on 17 July that North Korea proposed a joint fishing zone north of the ‘Northern Limit Line’ dividing North and South territorial waters to the west of the peninsula. Seoul turned down the offer.

Inter-Korean military talks broke down early on 26 July after only three days of negotiations as North Korea insisted on the redrawing of the Northern Limit Line.

North Korea demanded on 27 July that workers in the Kaesong Industrial Complex be given a 15 percent pay raise. The North Korean workers will not work overtime, weekends or holidays beginning in August unless the raise is granted.

It was reported by the Korea International Trade Association on 26 July that inter-Korean trade was up 28.6 percent in the first six months of 2007, totaling 720 million USD.


It was reported on 19 July that Russia and North Korea have agreed to connect Khasan and Najin by rail, enlisting investment from Russian oil companies interested in an inactive refinery at Najin Port capable of processing up to 120,000 barrels per day. The project is estimated to cost over two billion USD.


During a four-day visit to Mongolia by Kim Yong-nam beginning on 20 July, the two countries signed protocols on cooperation on health and science, trade and sea transport, and labor exchange issues. This follows on the heals of an agreement to allow South Korean trains to travel through North Korean territory on to Mongolia in route to Russia and Europe.


Japan took one step further to recover abductees in North Korea this month when the government began broadcasting propaganda into the DPRK intended for Japanese citizens. The broadcasts are made in Korean and Japanese (30 minutes each) daily, and updated once per week.


U.S. Ambassador to the ROK Alexander Vershbow stated that Washington was prepared to negotiate a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula by the end of the year if North Korea were to completely abandon its nuclear ambitions.



The Egyptian company Orascom Construction Industries announced a 115 million USD deal with North Korea’s state-owned Pyongyang Myongdang Trading Corporation to purchase a 50 percent state in Sangwon Cement. To put this in perspective, the deal in worth more than four times the amount of frozen DPRK funds that had caused six-party talks to break down and delayed the implementation of the February 13 agreement.


The Economist reported on 7 July that, according to foreigners living in the North’s capital, concern for petty law appears to be weakening. Citizens are reportedly smoking in smoke-free zones, sitting on escalator rails, and even blocking traffic by selling wares on the streets.

It was reported on July 11 that a letter sent earlier in the year by the North Korean Red Cross indicated severe shortages of medical supplies. The letter stated that North Korea would accept any medicine, even if it was past expiration, and accept all consequences for any problems that arose from using outdated supplies. The (South) Korea Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association had no choice but to reject the request.

Events were held on July 11 in North Korea in order to promote women’s health and well-being issues. Marking World Population Day, a North Korean official stated that the DPRK has cooperated with the UN Population Fund since 1986, and is now in the fourth phase of cooperation.

Seeing entertainment venues as a “threat to society”, North Korean security forces have been implementing a shutdown of karaoke bars and Internet cafes. These venues mainly cater to traders in the northern regions of the country.

It was reported on July 13 that construction of North Korea’s first all-English language university was nearing completion. The Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, funded largely by ROK and U.S. Christian evangelical groups, will hold 2600 students and offer undergraduate and post-graduate degrees in business administration, information technology, and agriculture.

Local elections were held on 29 July for DPRK provincial, city, and country People’s Assemblies. 100 percent of 27,390 candidates were approved with a 99.82 percent turnout reported.


North Korea Wants End to Sanctions Before It Makes Nuclear Deal

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

Bradley K. Martin

To make painkillers and antibiotics in his factory in Pyongyang, Swiss businessman Felix Abt needs reagents, chemicals used to test for toxic impurities. Abt can’t get them now — because the world refuses to sell North Korea a product that is also used to manufacture biological weapons.

Such sanctions on trade with the regime of Kim Jong Il — some dating back to the Korean War — may be the next diplomatic battleground after North Korea bowed to pressure last week and shut down five nuclear facilities at Yongbyon.

North Korea said July 16 that ending sanctions, and its removal from a U.S. list of countries that sponsor terrorism, are prerequisites for further progress in the negotiations to end its nuclear weapons program. The U.S., meanwhile, says the next step is for North Korea to disclose all its nuclear capabilities, followed by a permanent dismantling of Yongbyon.

North Korea is playing a “tactical game,” said David Straub, a Korea specialist at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. After shutting down Yongbyon and receiving a pledge of 950,000 tons of oil, the reclusive nation will try to “force the U.S. and others to lift sanctions,” Straub said in an e-mail exchange.

While many of the post-Korean war sanctions were lifted between 1994 and 2000 by President Bill Clinton, Americans are prohibited from exporting “dual-use” products or technologies, a wide range of items that might have military as well as civilian applications — including reagents and even aluminum bicycle tubing, which might be used to make rockets.

UN Sanctions

Much of the world joined the sanctions regime after North Korea tested an atomic device last October. The United Nations called on member states to stop trade in weapons, “dual-use” items and luxury goods. Japan went further, stopping used-car exports and banning port calls by North Korean vessels.

Now that North Korea has shut its facilities at Yongbyon and allowed in international inspectors, the haggling will begin on the next steps. If its demands aren’t met, North Korea could kick out the inspectors and restart the plants, as it did in 2002.

“The Bush administration must choose between settling for a temporary closure of the nuclear sites and taking a strategic decision to coexist” with North Korea, said Kim Myong Chol, Tokyo-based president of the Center for Korean-American Peace, who for three decades has encouraged foreign reporters to consider him an informal North Korean spokesman. “Otherwise, the agreement will break up, leaving the U.S. with little to show.”

‘Contentious Issue’

Sanctions represent “a multiplicity of issues that could become contentious,” said economist Marcus Noland, North Korea specialist at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, in an e-mail exchange. China has already called for the lifting of the UN sanctions imposed Oct. 14.

North Korea agreed with the U.S., South Korea, Russia, China and Japan on Feb. 13 to close its Yongbyon reactor, which produced weapons-grade plutonium, and to eventually declare and disable all of its atomic programs. Working groups will meet in August before another round of talks in September.

If the U.S. insists on a list of all the country’s nuclear facilities without starting to negotiate on sanctions, North Korea might consider that “a spoiler” for the talks ahead, Kim Myong Chol said.

Swiss businessman Abt said that in the past he could get around U.S. sanctions for his North Korean pharmaceutical factory by buying supplies from other countries. The UN sanctions shut off those sources.

Using Old Stocks

“Luckily, we have enough stock of reagents, but when it runs out we would not be able to guarantee the safety of our pharmaceuticals any longer,” he said.

Abt, 52, is president of Pyongsu Pharma Joint Venture Co., an enterprise with ties to the Ministry of Public Health that makes painkillers and antibiotics for humanitarian organizations in North Korea. He is also president of Pyongyang’s European Business Association.

“The same is true in many other civilian industries,” said Abt, who moved to North Korea from Vietnam five years ago. Gold mines are affected too, he said: “If they cannot import cyanide, they can’t extract the gold.” Cyanide is another “dual-use” product, part of the process for making some chemical weapons, he said.

All this has “a highly negative impact” on the economy at a time when the regime has announced it wants to focus on development, Abt said. Foreigners are showing “more and more interest in doing business here,” Abt said, predicting that North Korea will eventually be regarded as a successor to Vietnam as “the newest emerging market.”