February 05, 2023

Snake oil: North Korea peddles folk cures as a panacea for all ills

State media promotes traditional remedies as a substitute for modern medicine — but citizens don’t buy the hype

A glance at the medicine in DPRK mass media is likely to leave the impression that North Koreans live in a medieval society.

The monthly magazine Korea Today, special journal Koryo Medicine (고려 의학) and other publications tirelessly extol herbs, moxibustion, acupuncture and all manner of traditional medicine as panaceas for disease. Some of these products suspiciously resemble basic herbal refreshments found in every convenience store in South Korea.