North Korea offers to pay in ginseng

North Korea may be a resolutely communist economy, but it has certainly got the hang of the sort of bartering that lies at the heart of capitalism. How does it reconcile the fact that it is short on the funds to make its latest debt repayment to the Czech Republic? By offering to pay in ginseng rather than cash, of course.

The Czech government yesterday confirmed reports in its newspapers that it had received a novel offer from the regime in Pyongyang, with whom it did a roaring trade during its own Communist past. The Koreans still owe it the equivalent of $10m from those days and wondered if the Czechs would accept $500,000 of ginseng, the invigorating herb, as a downpayment. Sadly for them, the Czechs are now asking for North Korean zinc instead.