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North Korea promotes traditional medicine to fight COVID-19

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North Korea recently reported less than 200 fever cases a day in the first domestic COVID-19 outbreak, saying that it is traditional “Koryo” herbal medicine that plays an important role in treating patients. Stated.

As a medical student in Paju-North Korea, South Korea, Lee Gwang-jin said he treated his fever and other mild illnesses with traditional herbs. But bad illness can mean a problem, as his rural home hospital lacked ambulances, beds, and sometimes even the electricity needed to treat critically or urgent patients.

So Lee hears recent North Korean state media reports claiming that such so-called Goryeo traditional medicine plays an important role in the fight against COVID-19, which killed millions of people around the world. I was skeptical at the time.

“North Korea uses a lot of Goryeo medicine (for COVID-19) … but that’s not a surefire cure,” he said before he fled North Korea in 2018 for a new life in South Korea. Lee, who learned Goryeo medicine, said. “People destined to survive will survive (with such medicines), but North Korea cannot help others who are dying.”

Like many other parts of North Korea’s life, the medicine that the state says cures sick people is used as a political symbol. Ultimately, according to experts, the state can say that its leaders have defeated the repeated failures of other countries by providing their own remedies, regardless of foreign assistance. become.

As state media publishes stories about the effectiveness of medicines and the enormous production efforts to make better use of them, there are questions about whether people suffering from severe illness are receiving the treatment they need. ..
Defective people and experts believe that North Korea is mobilizing oriental medicine simply because it does not have enough modern medicine to fight COVID-19.

“Treatment of mild symptoms with Goryeo medicine is not a bad option… But coronavirus does not only cause mild symptoms,” said a traditional doctor and researcher at the Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine in South Korea. Lee Jun-hyuk said. “When we think of critical and high-risk patients, North Korea needs vaccines, emergency medical systems, and other medical resources that they can use,” reduces deaths.

More than two months have passed since North Korea first recognized the outbreak of the coronavirus, and an average of 157 fever cases per day have been reported in the past seven days, starting from the peak of about 400,000 cases per day in May. It has decreased significantly. It also maintains the widely controversial claim that only 74 of the approximately 4.8 million fever patients died, with a case fatality rate of 0.002%, and if this is true worldwide. Will be the lowest.

Despite widespread external doubts about the truth of North Korea’s reported statistics, there are no signs that the outbreak caused a catastrophe in North Korea. Some outside experts say North Korea may soon formally declare a victory over COVID-19 in order to boost internal unity. North Korea may emphasize the role of oriental medicine as the reason.

“North Korea calls Koryo medicine’chuche medicine’, treats it importantly, and considers it one of its political symbols,” said Kim Dong-soo, a professor of Korean medicine at Dongshin University in South Korea. .. “North Korea has a little academic and cultural achievement to advertise, so it has the potential to actively promote oriental medicine.”
In the 1950s, North Korea officially incorporated Korean medicine, named after the ancient kingdom of South Korea, into the public health system. Its importance has risen sharply since the mid-1990s when North Korea began suffering a major shortage of modern medicine during the devastating famine and economic turmoil that killed hundreds of thousands of people.

Goryeo medicine refers to herbal medicines such as animal parts, acupuncture, cupping, moxibustion, and meridian massage. These ancient remedies are also used in many Asian and Western countries. But while traditional and modern medicines work independently in these countries, North Korea combines them. Link

Medical students, regardless of their major, need to study both modern and traditional medicine at school. Therefore, as a specialist, you can practice both. Each North Korean hospital has a Korean medicine department. Some hospitals only use Goryeo medicine.

Kim Jee-Woon, a traditional Korean doctor, said he majored in oriental medicine at a school in the north but eventually worked as a pediatrician and internist. She said Koreans generally use traditional medicine to maintain or improve their health, while North Koreans use it to treat a variety of illnesses.  

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