- By Brian FungBrian Fung is an editorial researcher at FP.
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.