July 29, 2010 08:52
North Korea has offered to pay part of its debts to the Czech Republic in ginseng instead of cash, the Czech daily MF Dnes reported Tuesday.
Quoting a senior Czech Finance Ministry official, the paper said the North has recently suggested that it would pay 5 percent, or US$500,000 of its debts in ginseng. The total debt amounts to $10 million.
Czech Deputy Finance Minister Tomas Zidek said his government is trying to persuade North Korea to pay it back in zinc, which would be immediately cashable in the international market.
Five percent would translate into more than 400 tons of ginseng. But the Czechs imported a mere 1.4 tons from China and other countries last year and are apparently worried about the cost of having to re-export the root, which is prized for its healthful properties.
A North Korean delegation is apparently headed to the Czech Republic carrying ginseng samples.
The North owes the money because it failed to pay for past imports of machinery and electric cars in the days when Czechoslovakia was a communist country.
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