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Open Access Research

Ethno-entomological observations from North Korea (officially known as the “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”)

V Benno Meyer-Rochow

Author Affiliations

School of Engineering and Science, Jacobs University Bremen, Research II (Rm.37), Bremen, D-28759, Germany

Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 2013, 9:7  doi:10.1186/1746-4269-9-7

Published: 16 January 2013

Abstract

In terms of scientific activities generally and ethnobiological pursuits in particular, North Korea, officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, is an almost blank entity on the quilt of global research. During a sabbatical semester at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology the author used this opportunity to gather some information on the uses of insect and other terrestrial arthropods as human food and components of traditional healing methods in that country. Despite the widely publicised shortcomings in the supply of food stuffs to the population of North Korea, insects are not generally seen as a source of food worthy of exploitation. However, the therapeutic use of insects, centipedes and scorpions to treat illnesses as diverse as the common cold, skin rashes, constipation, dysentery, nervous prostration, whooping cough, osteomyelitis, tetanus, and various forms of cancer is apparently still popular. The arthropods used therapeutically are credited with anti-inflammatory, immunological and other health-promoting effects, because they are said to contain hormones, steroids, lipids and plant-derived alkaloids, all of which capable of exerting their effects on the human body.