Tue, Jun 03, 2014 - Page 6 News List

N Korea creates sports drink made from mushrooms

MYCOLOGICAL MOVES:A North Korean state report fails to break down how the sports drink’s health benefits work, but asserts its utility for ‘sportspersons’

The Guardian

North Korean scientists have developed a sports drink made from mushrooms to enhance athletic prowess, North Korea media outlets reported.

In a report detailing new inventions in the secretive state, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said researchers at the Microbiological Research Institute of the State Academy of Sciences had developed a “very effective” mushroom drink to help athletes recover from exertion.

“They succeeded in finding the way to cultivate mushroom fungus and made a functional drink,” KCNA reported.

“This natural drink is very effective in enhancing physical ability of sportspersons and recovering from their fatigues,” it added.

The report does not explain how the drink’s health benefits work, when it will be made widely available or how it tastes.

North Korea recently announced the opening of a Central Mushroom Research Institute in Pyongyang.

A KCNA report said the center had been built “according to the noble intention of [North Korean leader] Kim Jong-un making a new history of industrialization of mushroom growing” and that it had a “very important duty” to help turn “[the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] into a huge producer of mushrooms.”

The report said there was now a “brisk drive for mushroom production” across North Korea, and that the efforts of the institute were anticipated to bring “substantial benefits to the people.”

North Korea has struggled with food production since a famine in the 1990s, which is believed to have killed 1 million people.

Outdated farming practices, mismanagement, lack of fertilizers and extreme weather have all been linked to poor food production.

Though the situation is believed to be steadily improving, chronic levels of infant malnutrition persist, the UN has reported.

North Koreans receive much of their food through state rations and can receive food packages as work bonuses and holiday treats. There is a thriving black market in rare or imported foods, such as South Korean Choco Pies snack cakes.

Mushrooms have featured in North Korean propaganda since the 1960s. Kim Jong-un’s grandmother, Kim Jong-suk, who is regarded as the mother of the nation, is said to have shown her “revolutionary nature” and commitment to the nation’s struggle by using mushrooms as cures for illnesses, according to Robert Winstanley-Chesters, of the Beyond the Korean War Project at Cambridge University.

KCNA has previously emphasized to the public that both North Korea’s founding father, Kim Il-sung, and his son, late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, “worked heart and soul to provide the people with tasty nutritious mushroom.”

This is all part of communicating the “charismatic love the Kim dynasty shows for the North Korean people,” Winstanley-Chesters said.

Kim Jong-un has also shown a particular love of sports, not least when he invited former US basketball player Dennis Rodman to Pyongyang, where the pair watched a game together.

“Sports are a useful ideological and spiritual tool capable of generating patriotic support for a state quickly,” said Christopher Green, of the North Korea news and analysis Web sites Sino-NK and Daily NK.

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