his latest China trip, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un paid a surprise visit to a traditional Chinese medicine factory in Beijing.efore heading back home from
The massive plant is owned by Tong Ren Tang (同仁堂), the world’s top producer of traditional Chinese medicines with a history that dates back more than three centuries. Headquartered in Beijing, the company operates drug stores around the globe.
Unfortunately, there has been only one photo (above) publicized from Kim’s factory tour. The supreme leader of North Korea is well known for looking at things.
The state-run Global Times speculates that Kim’s visit likely means that he is considering promoting a traditional medicine industry in his own country as a means of economic development. United Nations sanctions against North Korea do not include medicinal materials.
Kim’s visit comes only a week after his New Year’s address in which he stressed the need to improve health care in North Korea, saying: “We must modernize pharmaceutical and medical equipment factories, upgrading medical institutions and raising the level of medical service… so that all people may realize the superiority of the socialist public health care system.”
Of course, it’s hard to square “modernizing” with TCM. Recently, another one of China’s top producers of traditional medicines, the Tianjin-based Quanjian Group, has been under fire and under investigation following a viral article recounting how a four-year-old girl with cancer had died after being taken out of chemotherapy and treated with the company’s herbal medicines. Quanjian had even created false advertisements claiming to have cured the girl.
This was Kim’s fourth trip to China in less than a year and also came on his 36th birthday. That night he attended a lavish banquet in the Great Hall of the People and watched a “grand variety show” alongside Xi Jinping.
In addition to his apparent interest in TCM, Kim is believed to have visited Beijing in order to talk over strategy with Xi regarding a second anticipated US-North Korea summit.