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North Korea Attempts to Pay Down Debt With Ginseng

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North Korea owes the Czech Republic $10 million, some of which is left over from the days of communism in Czechoslovakia, when the country supplied heavy machinery, trucks and trams to the "hermit kingdom" as academics and news reporters like to call it.

The appropriately creepy-sounding "Bureau 39" in Pyongyang has offered to ship about 40 tons of ginseng to the Czech government, which would make a 10% dent in North Korea's outstanding debt.

But the Czechs aren't buying it.

“We have been trying to convince them to send, for instance, a shipment of zinc, which is mined there. We would sell it ourselves,” Tomas Zidek, deputy finance minister, told the Czech Republic’s MF Dnes newspaper.

Of course North Korea doesn't want to part with its zinc--it's a crucial ingredient in the sunscreen they sell to tourists who go there for the sandy beaches, the sparkling blue skies, and the warm, friendly locals.

(For more on North Korea, see North Korea: Investing With the Enemy)
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