Pyongyang's pep pill

Ever wondered how people get through the day in dreary North Korea? The answer, it seems, is a little pill more potent than Viagra. The communist state claims to have developed a drug that not only cures impotence but also obesity, liver diseases, arteriosclerosis and joint pains.

Kim Jong-il's regime is already rumoured to be propping up its beleaguered finances by exporting fake Viagra pills to South Korea.

But the April issue of Pyongyang's Chosun magazine boasts about Neo Viagra-YR. The YR was not spelt out but the Korean phrase chongchunbuhwal suggests it stands for "youth revival".

In case Pfizer, the US pharmaceutical giant that makes the real Viagra, is concerned about patent infringements, the Pyongyang magazine made it clear that the wonder drug was developed by Ryu Il-nam, a leading North Korean pharmacologist.

It claimed the new drug was more advanced than Viagra, and was very popular in the North because it was also "good for women", according to South Korean news organisations monitoring the magazine.

The US claims the North exports drugs worth hundreds of millions of dollars each year, making them the country's second-biggest source of revenue after missiles. The production and sales network is the same: the armed forces make them and Pyongyang's diplomats help sell them.

It may be good synergy but doesn't always work. In December Turkey deported two North Korean diplomats accused of smuggling thousands of narcotics pills in from neighbouring Bulgaria, where they were stationed.

Bush unplugged

Harry Stonecipher of Boeing was laid low by a private e-mail, but George W. Bush, US president, who runs a much bigger organisation, has made it clear that would never happen to him.

The president admitted that he was not a member of the wired generation and wouldn't be as long as he remained at the White House.

"There's a reason," he told the American Society of Newspaper Editors in Washington. "I don't want you reading my personal stuff."

In a long discussion with editors over the White House's control of information, Bush said he was a supporter of open government, but not when it comes to his private life.

"You're entitled to know how I make decisions," he said. "I don't think you're entitled to read my mail between my daughters and me …I made an easy decision there. I just don't do it."

observer@ft.com

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