One of North Korea's Top Exports: Frog Oil

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  • 대한민국
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One of North Korea's Top Exports: Frog Oil

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Jin-woo lived in a border town called 'Musan' in North Hamgyong Province, which borders China. His family was known for helping their neighbors during the famine in North Korea. However, the North Korean government saw this as espionage that threatened the regime, and the entire family was arrested and tortured by the North Korean police. Fortunately, they were cleared of espionage at the end of the investigation, but the family was already destitute.

"My father, who lost everything in one moment, went squid fishing in a wooden boat for the family and didn't return for days. The family had to starve for days waiting for him. I still remember the sound of my younger brother, who was seven years old at the time, sighing when he saw the empty rice cooker."
At the tender age of 16, Jin-woo started working for a job, sending North Koreans to South Korea and connecting them with family members left behind in North Korea. Jin-woo helped more than 100 people in this capacity, but it also made him a wanted man.
"In 2013, I was almost executed by firing squad for sending people who betrayed North Korea to South Korea. As a result, my mother ended up in prison, and my younger brother became a beggar and wandered from place to place. I was the one who said I would help people in need, but I couldn't protect my family."
In 2014, Jin-woo came to Korea and worked as a night delivery driver at a logistics company in Chungnam. He carried more than 100 kilograms of auto parts every day. It was a grueling job, but he persevered, thinking only of his family. Eventually, he became a recognized employee at the company and even started his own business.
"I was a 5-ton cargo driver, delivering auto parts, and I slept for two hours a day because the factory was running 24 hours a day. I collapsed and was sent to the hospital, where I was diagnosed with an incurable disease called ankylosing spondylitis."

Jin-woo lost everything in one moment. As he was unable to work anymore, he felt empty and lost. That's when his father, who had spent much of his career in North Korea, made him an unexpected offer.

"When I was in North Korea, there was a product that I had researched and exported to China for more than a decade, and it was the best seller at the North Korean foreign currency base. It doesn't make sense that I can't utilize this experience because I am in South Korea. Let's do what we're good at."

The best-selling product in North Korea was frog oil. It is such a rare ingredient because only the Northern Mountain Frog species can yield less than 3 grams of oil. Classical eastern medical texts also detail its use as a supplement to strengthen the lungs and kidneys. This precious ingredient is well-known for wealthy dignitaries and fighter pilots to maintain health in North Korea and China.

After speaking with his father, Jin-woo started his own frog oil business called 'Millennium Future Food. However, building the first oil frog farm and processing plant in South Korea was challenging. It took him a tremendous time due to a lack of capital. Nevertheless, Jin-woo worked hard because he wanted to help other North Korean defectors facing career breaks like him.

"Even after I found a factory site, I didn't have enough money to buy the equipment. Fortunately, I had a commercial driver's license. I worked part-time at a delivery job in the morning and at a liquor delivery company during the day. I even took injections of gene therapy to keep me up. It took me three years to finally make a product."
After launching its products, Millennium Future Food strives to overcome social prejudice against North Korean defectors by hiring residents and young North Korean defectors and running entrepreneurship programs for them. Jin-woo's goal is to be responsible for the health of his customers for more than a thousand years and to grow Millennium Future Food into a mid-sized company to bring about more social change.
After launching its products, Millennium Future Food strives to overcome social prejudice against North Korean defectors by hiring residents and young North Korean defectors and running entrepreneurship programs for them. Jin-woo's goal is to be responsible for the health of his customers for more than a thousand years and to grow Millennium Future Food into a mid-sized company to bring about more social change. Could you make social change with Millennium Future Food?
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