The North Korea spent over US$146,000 to buy medical supplies from Bangladesh in the fiscal year 2014, the Washington-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported, citing trade statistics from the Bangladeshi Export Promotion Bureau.
The figure is more than double the $68,000 tallied in the fiscal year 2013. The country closes its books in June.
The North likely chose Bangladesh as its trading partner because the latter can copy patented drugs and sell them abroad for now as per an international agreement brokered by the World Trade Organization, the Dhaka office of the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency said.
Though it is too early to tell, the RFA speculated that the North’s sudden interest in medical import may be closely related to leader Kim Jong-un’s recent campaign to boast his “love for the people,” a move possibly aimed at assuaging public outrage over a deadly collapse of an apartment building in Pyongyang in May.
The North’s healthcare spending has been among the least in the world, with the World Health Organization estimating that it had put in less than $1 per person in 2006.
Separately, the Swiss government has said it will continue its humanitarian assistance to North Korea for the next two years, the U.S.-based Voice of America reported Friday.
The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) will extend its 2012-2014 Medium-Term Programme, an aid plan aimed at helping North Korea exploit sloping lands for farming purposes and gain better access to clean drinking water, by another couple of years, the report said.