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North Korea offers to pay its debts in ginseng

North Korea offers to pay its debts in ginseng

It’s no secret North Korea is among some of the poorest nations on earth. What’s a little harder to figure out is exactly how poor it is. But observers got a better idea today as Pyongyang, running short on cash, reportedly tried to service its debt to the Czech Republic with shipments of ginseng (paywall):

Czech officials confirmed that Pyongyang had offered to settle 5 per cent of its Kc186m ($10m) in accumulated debt in ginseng, an invigorating root used in dietary supplements and teas that are supposed to improve memory, stamina and libido. Communist Czechoslovakia was a leading supplier of heavy machinery, trucks and trams to North Korea. 

The Czech market for alternative medicine isn’t all that big, so if the government accepts, it’ll have to re-sell the ginseng abroad. Luckily, somebody took the trouble of calculating global demand for the root out to 2014, already, so all the Czechs have to do is plop down $800 on Amazon and they’ll be set. Bonus points for free shipping.