North Korean Cold War debts repaid in ginseng

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The Independent Online

North Korea has offered a unique way to repay nearly $10m in Cold War-era debt – with ginseng, according to Czech officials.

The Czech Finance Ministry said it has been negotiating ways for the impoverished country to pay back $9.8m (£6.3m) from the late 1980s, when Czechoslovakia was part of the communist bloc.

Then, Czechoslovakia delivered to its North Korean ally trams, trucks and various machines. North Korea proposed during talks in July that the Czechs forgive 95 per cent of the debt, but Czech officials said that was unacceptable.

The Czechs then suggested the North Koreans pay in goods, and North Korea proposed sending medical products made of ginseng. The ginseng root is touted as a cure-all for everything from headaches to sexual dysfunction.

The ministry said it has not received an official offer yet. North Korea has relied on food handouts since the mid-1990s.