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N. Korea claims to have developed panacea for MERS

All Headlines 11:08 June 19, 2015

SEOUL, June 19 (Yonhap) -- North Korea said Friday it has developed an injection that is highly effective in preventing and curing the MERS virus and other contagious diseases.

But doubts have arisen over the credibility of its claim given its poor health care system.

North Korea's Pugang Pharmaceutic Co. has developed "Kumdang-2," made of extracts from ginseng with the injection of rare earth elements, according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

"As a strong immune-activator, the injection has been recognized to prevent different malignant epidemics," the KCNA said, citing remarks by Jon Sung-hun, a doctor and director of the pharmaceutical company.

The report came as South Korea has confirmed the 24th death from and 166 infections of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome since the first case was reported in May.

The reclusive North's claim couldn't be verified independently by the outside world. Observers here said chances are slim that the North has developed such an injection, given that many North Koreans are suffering from tuberculosis and other diseases amid a lack of vaccination and the poor health care system.

North Korea has been highly sensitive to the outbreak of infectious diseases. Last year, Pyongyang imposed an entry ban on foreign tourists for about five months due to Ebola concerns.

The KCNA claimed that those who are injected with Kumdang-2 have not contracted any infectious diseases even as they had traveled to the areas hit by those diseases.

"This means that Kumdang-2 is effective in coping with the MERS virus," it said.

The North has been promoting the injection whenever contagious diseases are prevalent.

Pyongyang had praised the effectiveness of the medicine in 2003 when the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome hit China and Hong Kong. It made similar claims in 2006 and 2013 when the avian flu was spreading.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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