Healthcare in North Korea

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Dentists in a North Korean hospital.

Healthcare in North Korea includes a national medical service and health insurance system.[1] North Korea’s government claims that it provides universal health care for all citizens; however defectors and some health professionals working abroad with contacts to North-Koreans claim that health services only exist for those who can pay for them.[2]

Structure[edit]

North Korea has a national medical service and health insurance system which are offered for free.[3] In 2001 North Korea spent 3% of its gross domestic product on health care. Beginning in the 1950s, the DPRK put great emphasis on healthcare, and between 1955 and 1986, the number of hospitals grew from 285 to 2,401, and the number of clinics – from 1,020 to 5,644.[4] There are hospitals attached to factories and mines. Since 1979 more emphasis has been put on traditional Korean medicine, based on treatment with herbs and acupuncture. A national telemedicine network was launched in 2010. It connects the Kim Man Yu hospital in Pyongyang with 10 provincial medical facilities.[5]

North Korea's healthcare system suffered a steep decline since the 1990s because of natural disasters, economic problems, and food and energy shortages. By 2001, many hospitals and clinics in North Korea lacked essential medicines, equipment, running water and electricity.[6]

Almost 100% of the population has access to water and sanitation, but it is not completely potable. Infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis, malaria, and hepatitis B, are considered to be endemic to the country.[7]

In 2010, the World Health Organization described the healthcare system as "the envy of the developing world" while simultaneously acknowledging that "challenges remained, including poor infrastructure, a lack of equipment, malnutrition and a shortage of medicines." WHO criticized an earlier Amnesty International report which described "barely functioning hospitals" as outdated and factually inaccurate.[8]

Famine and Poverty[edit]

Main article: North Korean famine

There are several quality-of-living issues in North Korea negatively impacting citizens' health. For example, only 60% of the population had access to improved sanitation facilities in 2000.[9] During the 1990s, the country was ravaged by famine, causing the death of between 500,000 and 3 million people.[10] Food shortages are ongoing today, with factors such as bad weather, lack of fertilizer and a drop in international donation meaning that North Koreans do not have enough to eat.[11] A study of North Koreans in 2008 found that three-quarters of respondents had reduced their food intake.[12] Extreme poverty is also a factor in the hunger faced by North Korean people, with 27% of the population living at or below the absolute poverty line of less than US $1 a day.[13]

These food shortages cause a number of malnutrition diseases. For example, a 2009 UNICEF report found that North Korea was “one of 18 countries with the highest prevalence of stunting (moderate and severe) among children under 5 years old”.[14] North Korea is also experiencing a tuberculosis epidemic, with 5% of the population infected with the disease; this has been attributed to the “overall deterioration in health and nutrition status of the population as well as the rundown of the public health services”.[15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Library of Congress – Federal Research Division 2007 ‘Country Profile: North Korea’, Library of Congress – Federal Research Division, viewed 6 September 2010, <http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/profiles/North_Korea.pdf>
  2. ^ World Opinion 2010 ‘North Korea’s ‘horrifying’ health care system’, The Week, viewed 6 September 2010, <http://theweek.com/article/index/205123/north-koreas-horrifying-health-care-system>
  3. ^ Country Profile 2007, pp. 7-8.
  4. ^ North Korea Public Health, Country Studies
  5. ^ "NKorea launches telemedicine network with WHO help". The Seattle Times. 27 April 2010. Retrieved 17 June 2014. 
  6. ^ "N Korea healthcare 'near collapse'". BBC News. 20 November 2001. 
  7. ^ "Life Inside North Korea". U.S. Department of State. Archived from the original on 11 July 2008. Retrieved 18 November 2008. 
  8. ^ "Aid agencies row over North Korea health care system". BBC News. 10 July 2010. 
  9. ^ World Health Organisation 2010 ‘Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: health profile’, World Health Organisation, viewed 6 September 2010, <http://www.who.int/gho/countries/prk.pdf>
  10. ^ Library of Congress – Federal Research Division 2007 ‘Country Profile: North Korea’, Library of Congress – Federal Research Division, viewed 6 September 2010, <http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/profiles/North_Korea.pdf>
  11. ^ Amnesty International 2010 ‘The Crumbling State of Health Care in North Korea’, Amnesty International, viewed 6 September 2010, <http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA24/001/2010/en/13a097fc-4bda-4119-aae5-73e0dd446193/asa240012010en.pdf>
  12. ^ Amnesty International 2010 ‘The Crumbling State of Health Care in North Korea’, Amnesty International, viewed 6 September 2010, <http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA24/001/2010/en/13a097fc-4bda-4119-aae5-73e0dd446193/asa240012010en.pdf>
  13. ^ Library of Congress – Federal Research Division 2007 ‘Country Profile: North Korea’, Library of Congress – Federal Research Division, viewed 6 September 2010, <http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/profiles/North_Korea.pdf>
  14. ^ Amnesty International 2010 ‘The Crumbling State of Health Care in North Korea’, Amnesty International, viewed 6 September 2010, <http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA24/001/2010/en/13a097fc-4bda-4119-aae5-73e0dd446193/asa240012010en.pdf>
  15. ^ Amnesty International 2010 ‘The Crumbling State of Health Care in North Korea’, Amnesty International, viewed 6 September 2010, <http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA24/001/2010/en/13a097fc-4bda-4119-aae5-73e0dd446193/asa240012010en.pdf>

Bibliography[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]