5 Outrageous Medical Breakthroughs Claimed by North Korea

February 25, 2016

North Korea is far from the only country to make bizarre and outrageous claims about miracle medical cures for various diseases. It is, however, a real standout amongst a special club of countries that blend authoritarianism and delusional claims about medicine and healthcare technology. These places are simply in a league of their own.

The Latest Medical Breakthroughs Coming from North Korea

And among them, the hermit kingdom really warrants its own unique list. From vague liver medicine to awkwardly phrased nano-tech claims and the standard AIDS-ebola-cancer silver bullet, North Korea has it all. Or, rather, it claims it does.

Here’s our comprehensive list of the most outrageous and baffling medical advancements North Korea has claimed to have made.

1. Why Not Develop a New Hepatitis Medication at a Zoo?

Have you ever found yourself asking why more medical advancements don’t come out of your local zoo? Nope, me neither.

A researcher at North Korea’s Central Zoo in Pyongyang claims to have found a cure for hepatitis and other fatty liver conditions which he derived from “a compound of bear’s gall and extract from pith of maackia amurensis.” The latter, in case you’re not up to date on your East Asian shrubbery, is a common plant whose bark is used in traditional medicine in Korea.

The other ingredient, in case you were curious, is also traditional in the region. Frankly, the use of bile from a bear’s gall bladder is seemingly the only explanation for why this advancement should come out of a zoo, of all places.

The real irony here is the connection between hepatitis and obesity. It’s a bit rich to find such a medicine being developed in a country where obesity is nearly unheard of (with one notable exception). But the medical discoveries only get stranger from here.

2. Are You Suffering From AIDS, Ebola or Cancer? North Korea Is Here for You.

Lab assistant wearing a gas mask

DigiTaL~NomAd / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND

This marks one of North Korea’s more headline-grabbing medical claims of late. Their Central News Agency claims that this miracle drug is based on ginseng with a secret cocktail of rare earth metals inserted into it through a (previously unknown) process of applying something called “mico-elementary fertilizers” to the crop before it’s harvested.

Needless to say, it’s all very mysterious, but the researchers cited a study conducted in Africa that appears to have vanished from the internet. How precisely a single drug manages to target cancerous cells along with a variety of viral maladies remains unexplained.

Of course, North Korea is not only focusing its scientific efforts on big-name diseases, it’s also working hard to help everyday athletes.

3. "Nano-Sugar Water" and "Nano-Gold"

Anyone who went to high school has seen someone try to give a presentation about something they clearly know nothing about. This is a subtle art that representatives of the Myohyang Songchongang Pharmaceutical Company of North Korea have evidently not yet perfected.

Claiming that “we are producing nano-sugar water, nano-gold products and nano-silver antibacterial products,” to cure diseases like cancer (why bother if North Korea has already cured cancer?), the result has been yet another peculiar series of medical claims. The only appropriate reaction seems to be I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

4. Does Your Country Have a Mushroom Sports Drink? I Didn’t Think So.

There may be next to no information about this drink, aside from the claim that it’s very effective in helping athletes recover from the rigors of physical exertion, but that can’t stop the world from using its imagination to ponder what a mushroom-based sports drink could possibly taste like.

Sadly, as North Korea’s food production levels and international position are both far from conducive to robust exports, we’re not likely to learn the answer to that question anytime soon. On the other hand, perhaps some product development officers at Gatorade may be inspired enough to give this a try.

5. Yes, North Korea Claims to Have Developed a Sort of Super-Viagra

Medical Experiment: Blue Liquid

It’s called Neo-Viagra and it claims to make its users last 16-24 hours with no side effects. Safety concerns (especially when US pharma companies recommend seeking medical attention after just four hours) aside, the question of who exactly needs that kind of performance is strangely unanswered. Oddly enough, the medication also claims to help with backaches, shoulder aches, and damaged knee joints.

The common link between all of these medical breakthroughs seems to be that the hermit kingdom is constantly striving to draw attention away from the dismal state of its medical system. While citizens report taking methamphetamine because real medicine isn't available, state news agencies tout great advancements.

That being the case, there’s really no better reaction to this dizzying array of bizarre claims than to remind ourselves that millions suffer every day without access to basic medical care – let alone any of these miraculous breakthroughs.

If you'd like to explore other interesting (yet fictional) medical advancements, be sure to check out "The Most Notorious Fictional Drugs From Your Favorite Movies."