North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has reportedly banned Chinese-made drugs from major hospitals in the nation’s capital following the death of a senior government official.
According to the South Korea-based news site Daily NK, a senior official who was part of the country’s economic bureaucracy died earlier this month after being given a dose of cocarboxylase, a drug produced in China typically used to treat fatigue.
The official, who was not named by the media outlet, was said to have been a trusted bureaucrat who had worked in the country’s economic sector since the nation was ruled by Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il. He was being treated for heart disease and high blood pressure at Pyongyang Medical College Hospital when he died.
It is not clear whether the man’s death was the result of the cocarboxylase injection, Daily NK said. However, Kim became angry after learning that the official may have died as a result of Chinese medicine, the outlet said.
The North Korean leader responded by expressing his sadness at the loss of such a “talented official” and then ordered that Chinese medical products be “withdrawn” from all major hospitals in Pyongyang, Daily NK reported.
The ban would include an order that all COVID-19 vaccines made in China should be withdrawn from the ongoing analysis. Instead, the leader said, research activities should now focus on producing the country’s own coronavirus vaccine.
Newsweek was unable to independently corroborate the Daily NK report on Friday.
North Korea is already suffering from a shortage of food and medicine imports since it tightly closed its borders last year with the onslaught of the pandemic.
Although Beijing has always been North Korea’s closest foreign partner, the country’s trade with China declined by around 80% last year after the country sealed its borders, The Guardian reported.
“The North Korean economy is on the brink of a huge recession,” said Jiro Ishimaru, who runs the Asia Press website based in Osaka, Japan and manages a network of citizen journalists in North Korea. The Guardian earlier this month.
“A lot of people are suffering,” Ishimaru added. “I have spoken to contacts who say there are more people begging for food and money in markets, and an increase in the number of homeless. There is also a desperate need for ‘antibiotics and other drugs. “
Meanwhile, the country has repeatedly claimed that it has not recorded any cases of the coronavirus due to its efforts to quickly close borders, ban tourism and quarantine tens of thousands of people.
US and South Korean officials have cast serious doubts on the allegations, suggesting that thousands of people in the country have contracted the virus.
Newsweek contacted China’s Foreign Ministry for comment on the drug ban, but did not receive a response in time for the publication.