North Korean team gets help in the U.S. for treating disease

Joong Ang Daily
Nam Jung-ho
1/31/2008

Tuberculosis, practically non-existent in most developed countries, is North Korea’s biggest concern. Five public officials from the communist country recently visited the United States to learn how to prevent and treat the disease, according to an official of The Korea Society, a New York-based nonprofit group that invited the North Koreans.

The official, who declined to be named, said visits to the United States by North Korean public health officials are not new, but publicizing them is.

“Things have changed. In the past, we would have been bombarded with complaints about helping North Korea, suspected of supporting terrorism, if we had officially announced it,” the representative said. “The program could have been canceled completely, so we kept the program as low profile as possible.”

Tuberculosis is extremely rare in South Korea, but more than 1 million people a year in the impoverished North get infected with the disease.

The public health officials were taught how to prevent and treat tuberculosis, an infectious disease caused by bacteria. Several area medical institutes promised to donate medicine and medical instruments to the North to fight the disease, the representative said.

“We are interested in the efforts to dispel diseases, since they can not only serve humanitarian purposes but also benefit U.S. medical research,” said the representative of The Korea Society. “In North Korea, they can implement perfect control over their patients, making it easier to measure the effects of new medicines or new treatment.”

According to the official, three doctors and two public health officials from North Korea visited eight hospitals and other public health centers in San Francisco, California from Jan. 12 to 19. The visit was arranged by The Korea Society and Stanford University.

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