- By Isaac Stone FishIsaac Stone Fish is FP's Asia editor. A Mandarin speaker, he lived in China for seven years before moving to Washington, D.C. His articles have also appeared in the New York Times, the Economist, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, and he has appeared as a commentator on MSNBC, the BBC, NPR, Al Jazeera, and PRI, among others.
It’s a sad irony for a country wracked by malnutrition: A North Korean research institute is reported to have made a breakthrough in the science of weight-loss.
On Tuesday, Korea Central News Agency (KCNA), North Korea’s premier English language news website, posted an article about a scientific discovery: The Foodstuff Institute under the State Academy of Sciences had domestically localized a protein compound called oligopeptide, which helps in "controlling body weight" and "helps prevent fatness and cancer," according to the article. Nutrients and drinks made from the substance "won high appraisal at the exhibition of scientific achievements held by the State Academy of Sciences last year," the article continues.
On the one hand, scientific advancements, if this indeed is one, are beneficial to countries of all economic statuses. On the other hand, the World Food Program said in November that about "80 percent of North Korean households lacked the essential amount of vitamins, minerals, fats and proteins in their diets," according to The New York Times. And while it’s unknown whether anyone outside of the occasional international reader of the occasionally dependable KCNA knows about this drink, the optics aren’t great.