Kim Jong Un orders ban on Chinese medicine in Pyongyang hospitals after senior official dies

A senior North Korean official recently died after receiving a Chinese-made injection, Daily NK has learned. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reportedly became very angry after learning of the incident and banned the use of Chinese medicines in major hospitals in Pyongyang.

A senior source told Daily NK yesterday that the official, who was part of the country’s economic bureaucracy, was given a dose of cocarboxylase before he died earlier this month.

The official was in his 60s and was a trusted bureaucrat who had worked in the country’s economic sector since the Kim Jong Il era.

The man recently started suffering from heart disease as well as high blood pressure and was being treated at Pyongyang Medical College Hospital while on sick leave.

Just before his death, the man was injected with cocarboxylase, which is typically used to help patients recover from fatigue. In North Korea, however, the drug is used as a “panacea” to treat lung disease, high blood pressure and even contagious infections, according to the source’s account.

Suffering from underlying illnesses, the man did not recover his strength in hospital and his doctor eventually gave him a cocarboxylase injection.

The doctor reportedly initially argued that the man should be given drugs made at the Ryongheung Pharmaceutical Factory in North Korea. However, other medical personnel successfully argued that locally produced injections should not be given to such a high-ranking official.

North Korea is currently suffering from a lack of medicine given the sanctions imposed on the country and the impact of COVID-19 on trade. North Korean authorities emphasize the importance of using locally manufactured drugs to replace the lack of imported drugs.

Different types of drugs sold in North Korean markets. /Image: Daily NK

However, many ordinary North Koreans are still wary of locally made medicine.

When Kim Jong Un discovered that the man had received a Chinese injection, he ordered a complete ban on the use of Chinese medicine in major hospitals in Pyongyang.

Kim reportedly expressed sadness at losing such a “talented civil servant”, who was a trusted government employee, and ordered Chinese medical products to be “removed” from all major hospitals in Pyongyang.

He also ordered that all COVID-19 vaccine samples made in China be withdrawn from ongoing testing and research activities focused on producing the country’s own COVID-19 vaccine.

However, it is still unclear why the man died, although he appears to have perished right after receiving the cocarboxylase injection.

However, the authorities are currently investigating the trading company through which the doses of cocarboxylase were imported.

During the investigation, authorities also found that major hospitals in Pyongyang did not properly stock various types of drugs.

Medical staff store drugs without refrigerating them, and there are cases where drugs are stored in refrigerators or freezers that are not supplied with electricity.

The investigation revealed signs that North Korea will have difficulty transporting and storing vaccines when it receives them from overseas.

“Not having storage facilities in medical facilities will be a problem when the country receives vaccines from the World Health Organization [WHO]”, said the source. “I am aware that the WHO is also aware of this problem.