Archive for the ‘Health care’ Category

“Dwarfism” in the DPRK

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

This week I read the following report in the Washington Free Beacon (2015-3-13):

North Korea’s communist government has created a dwarf village in a remote part of the country where short people it regards as undesirables are prevented from reproducing and forced to fend for themselves within the harsh Stalinist system.

The abuse of North Koreans who have dwarfism, a genetic condition that produces short bodies and disproportionate limbs, is the latest disclosure of widespread human rights abuses within the country. A U.N. commission report a year ago charged the regime with “crimes against humanity.”

Several North Korean defectors disclosed the existence of the village, called Yeonha-Ri, and said it is located in Kimhyongjik County, a border region in northeastern Ryanggang Province. The province is named after North Korea’s founding dictator Kim Il-Sung’s father, Kim Hyong-Jik.

Dwarfs are persecuted by the regime under a policy that combines Korean superstitions about physical deformities manifesting from personal or ancestral sin, and the hardline communist regime’s demand that all citizens must work, according to North Korean defectors.

As part of the anti-dwarf measures, all people under 120 centimeters in height, or just under four feet, have been forced to relocate to the farming village at Yeonha-Ri.

One defector, who disclosed details of the village on condition of anonymity, said the North Korean government originally planned to exterminate the dwarfs as part of a policy of eliminating those within the population with undesirable physical traits. But concerns about international reaction to the population “cleansing” instead resulted in allowing the dwarfs to set up the farming village.

The goal of the separation is to prevent the dwarfs from marrying and reproducing. To that end, they are forced to undergo sterilization.

Also, North Korean dwarfs face a greater risk of starvation because they are not given the same food rations as other North Koreas.

Travel is also restricted under the dubious claim that as little people the dwarfs could be crushed while riding on crowded train cars.

The Free Beacon article later references this article in the UK’s Daily Mail.

For what it is worth, Yeonha-ri, or Ryonha-ri (련하리) as the North Koreans call it, can be found on Google Earth at 41.418403°, 127.513423°. Here is a satellite image:

Ryonha-ri-2011-5-10

At its closest point, the village is just under 4 km from the Chinese border.

ryoha-ri-china-border-2011-5-10

Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea briefly mentioned dwarfism in the detailed findings document:

Another research institute based in the ROK reported that human rights violations against persons with disabilities include the segregation and forced sterilization of persons suffering from dwarfism.

The citation for this quote is: KINU, White Paper on Human Rights in North Korea (2013), pp. 442-444. You can download the report here (as well as the most recent 2014 report, which does not mention “dwarfism” but rather “midget persons”).

The 2013 KINU report is based on defector interviews, so it is subject to the usual caveats.

The KINU 2013 survey respondents identify three locations of a dwarf village in Kim Hyong-jik County.

The first is a village named “Sangchangri” (Sangchang-ri), identified by two defectors. I am unable to locate a village by that name in Kim Hyong-jik County. It does not appear on any of my North or South Korean maps. I am aware of two villages named Sangchang-ri, but they are in North and South Hamgyong respectively.

Three other defectors independently report that they knew of a village for little people near Koup-gu, which is just north of Ryonha-ri (though they specifically identify Jungri-dong which is just 2.5 km south of Ryonha-ri).

Jungri-dong

A third location was identified as Wolthan Worker’s District (41.408095°, 127.059341°) which is in Kim Hyong-jik county, but on the western side.

The KINU reports also go on to say that the current legal status of little people is much more complicated than the simple narrative of identification, sterilization, and isolation that is reported in the contemporary media–especially following the death of Kim Il-sung.

Previous KINU reports also describe villages for little people in other parts of the country.

The reports of mistreatment of little people, however, date back many years. Hwang Jag-yap, who defected to South Korea in 19997 reported:

Concentration camps [plural] for persons of very short stature were set up in Jungpyung, in South Hamkyung province, after express orders from Kim Il-sung to isolate them to “prevent dwarves from multiplying.”

Additionally, I have a declassified report (FOUO) titled “Translations on Korean Affairs” published on May 18, 1979. It also mentions a dwarf village (p35):

In North Korea, in order to prevent the proliferation of dwarfs (deformed dwarfs), they are all put in a cooperative farm near Kanggye, Chagang Province, which is completely isolated from the outside. Therefore you cannot see dwarfs anywhere else.

This report gives the impression that there was only one village for little people and it was not so close to the Chinese border.

So there is lots of information on this topic that goes back many years and is not very consistent. Maybe somebody with more time than me could do a timeline of all the data and try to standardize all of the geographic names given.

Share

ROK to resume training of DPRK doctors

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

According to Yonhap:

South Korea said Wednesday it will resume a program to support North Korean medical doctors’ training in Germany.

The move, the first of its kind in seven years, is in line with the Park Geun-hye administration’s push for expanding humanitarian aid for the impoverished neighbor.

The unification ministry plans to provide a North Korea-Germany group with 90 million won (US$83,000) from the inter-Korean cooperation fund. It will be delivered through the (South) Korea Foundation for International Healthcare.

In 2001, the North Korea-Germany Medical Association launched a project to help train the communist nation’s doctors. A number of North Korean doctors were invited to Germany to learn the latest medical techniques for several months at local hospitals.

South Korea offered funds for the program in 2007 and 2008, but cut the assistance amid worsened relations with Pyongyang.

Read the full story here:
S. Korea to support N. Korean doctors’ training in Germany
Yonhap
2015-1-28

Share

Eugene Bell expands TB work in DPRK

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

According to Yonhap:

A U.S. charity group said Tuesday it has agreed with North Korea to expand its medical aid program in the impoverished nation.

Under the deal, the Washington-based Eugene Bell Foundation will construct three new wards at tuberculosis (TB) treatment centers in Pyongyang.

It is the fruit of a three-week trip to the communist nation by a group of 13 officials from the foundation.

“The number of patients at those treatment centers has grown as the activity of our foundation is increasingly known,” a foundation official said. “Every treatment center suffers a severe lack of wards.”

The foundation has long provided medical humanitarian assistance to North Korea, especially for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.

In a new program, it is sending 770 million won (US$750,000) worth of TB medication to the North.

Read the full story here:
U.S. charity group to expand medical aid program in N. Korea
Yonhap
2014-11-11

Share

German Government offers TB assistance to DPRK

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

According to Yonhap:

The German government has provided North Korea with US$600,000 in medical aid via [Caritas International], a U.S. media reported Tuesday.

The Roman Catholic group Caritas International, which was launched in Germany in 1897, has been campaigning to help the needy in the impoverished communist nation, especially those infected with tuberculosis (TB) and hepatitis.

“The German government is providing 450,000 euros [$600,000] to be used for the TB patients in the DPRK,” Reinhard A. Wurkner, a Caritas official in charge of Asia, was quoted as telling the Voice of America. DPRK is the acronym for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea’s official name.

Caritas began its North Korea project in 1996. It has since offered medical and nutritional assistance to TB and hepatitis patients in the country.

Read the full story here:
German gov’t offers US$600,000 in N. Korea aid
Yonhap
2014-8-26

Share

Eugene Bell offers TB assistance to the DPRK

Monday, July 28th, 2014

According to Yonhap:

The Eugene Bell Foundation, which provides medical assistance to the impoverished North, will send 770 million won (US$750,000) worth of TB medication to the communist country, ministry officials said.

In February, the foundation shipped 720 million won worth of TB drugs to the North in an attempt to tackle the growing issue of multidrug-resistant TB in the country.

So far this year, the South has approved 11 shipments of civilian aid worth a combined 2.82 billion won to North Korea.

The latest approval comes after Seoul announced on July 15 that it will provide Pyongyang with humanitarian aid worth 3 billion won through civilian organizations.

It marks Seoul’s first state-funded aid to North Korea since the North torpedoed the South Korean warship Cheonan in the Yellow Sea in 2010, killing 46 sailors. Following the incident, Seoul imposed a blanket ban on cross-border economic and other exchanges.

Read the full story here:
Gov’t OKs civilian medical aid to N. Korea
Yonhap
2014-7-28

Share

AmeriCares sends aid to the DPRK

Friday, July 25th, 2014

According to Yonhap:

A U.S. humanitarian group has sent US$800,000 worth of medical aid to North Korea as part of its continued effort to help the impoverished communist nation, a news report said Friday.

AmeriCares, a nonprofit organization based in Connecticut, shipped a package of medicine, sanitary goods and other medical aid in June, the Voice of America (VOA) reported.

The shipment will arrive at the end of this month, the aid group’s communication director, Donna Porstner, told the VOA.

The supplies will be distributed to six hospitals and clinics in Pyongyang, Pyongan Province, and North Hwanghae Province, it added.

AmeriCares said it delivered $1.8 million in medical assistance to North Korea earlier this year.

“Despite the challenging political context, AmeriCares — in its mission to help people in need irrespective of their race, creed or political persuasion — is committed to helping the people of North Korea, who have suffered from acute food shortages, natural disasters and isolation,” it said on its website, www.americares.org.

“A limited number of economic, political and social ties often means that the country faces shortages of key medical supplies,” it added.

Read the full story here:
U.S. NGO ships US$800,000 worth of medical aid to N. Korea
Yonhap
2014-7-25

Share

De facto marketization of North Korean health care

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Eun Jeong Soh, post-doctoral fellow at the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, has written an interesting article in the East Asia Forum on the innovative practices that have developed in the DPRK’s health care system. According to the article:

In contrast to a number of incremental changes toward marketisation — which the government inevitably adopted — Pyongyang has emphasised its intention to maintain completely free and socialised health and education sectors. As a result, despite lacking the resources to provide for the country’s over 700 hospitals and over 6000 clinics, privatisation and decentralisation in the health care sector has been minimal. There have been reports of privately owned and financed pharmacies in the streets of major cities and in a number of hospitals. Nevertheless, health workers are generally reluctant to seek outside resources directly and autonomously for fear of getting into trouble.

Under this peculiar context, informal health care practices — such as informal payments, a black market for medicines and home-practicing doctors — have developed. In a study conducted by the United States Institute of Peace, 90 per cent of respondents admitted to having made informal payments to doctors and that purchasing medications on the black market was common. Interviews with defectors resettling in Seoul confirm this trend. People have learned to treat themselves at home using antibiotics, glass syringes bought from the black market and herbal or traditional medicines. Doctors and pharmacists have created informal referral networks based on a sense of mutual trust in each other’s expertise and competence.

Another noticeable phenomenon is the emergence of home-practicing doctors. Patients have come to prefer private house doctors — out of both convenience and trust — over hospitals where one has to bring everything from medicines to meals. Such practices are illegal but not uncommon. Even in the old days, given the close doctor-patient relationship fostered by the North Korean-style free health care system, people in emergency situations visited doctors’ homes.

Read the full story here:
Behind North Korea’s hospital curtain
East Asia Forum
Eun Jeong Soh, ANU
2014-7-18

Share

DPRK imports from Bangladesh in FY 2014

Friday, July 11th, 2014

According to Yonhap:

The North spent over US$146,000 to buy medical supplies from Bangladesh in the fiscal year 2014, the Washington-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported, citing trade statistics from the Bangladeshi Export Promotion Bureau.

The figure is more than double the $68,000 tallied in the fiscal year 2013. The country closes its books in June.

The North likely chose Bangladesh as its trading partner because the latter can copy patented drugs and sell them abroad for now as per an international agreement brokered by the World Trade Organization, the Dhaka office of the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency said.

North Korea also bought $163,000 worth of instruments used in radiology from the U.S. in May, trade documents by the U.S. Commerce Development showed earlier this month.

Though it is too early to tell, the RFA speculated that the North’s sudden interest in medical import may be closely related to leader Kim Jong-un’s recent campaign to boast his “love for the people,” a move possibly aimed at assuaging public outrage over a deadly collapse of an apartment building in Pyongyang in May.

The North’s healthcare spending has been among the least in the world, with the World Health Organization estimating that it had put in less than $1 per person in 2006.

Separately, the Swiss government has said it will continue its humanitarian assistance to North Korea for the next two years, the U.S.-based Voice of America reported Friday.

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) will extend its 2012-2014 Medium-Term Programme, an aid plan aimed at helping North Korea exploit sloping lands for farming purposes and gain better access to clean drinking water, by another couple of years, the report said.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea ramps up import of medical equipment, drugs in past year: RFA
Yonhap
2014-7-11

Share

Two new interesting publications on the DPRK

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

The two publications deal with changing leadership dynamics and health care for the disabled. Links below…

North Korean leadership dynamics and decision-making under Kim Jong-un: A second year assessment
Ken Gause, CNS
Publiched March 2014
PDF DOWNLOAD

People with Disabilities in a Changing North Korea
Katharina Zellweger, 2011–13 Pantech Fellow, Stanford University
PDF DOWNLOAD

Share

Russia and DPRK discuss economic opportunities

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

What are the opportunities? Rason port, Iron Silk Road (Rail), Kaesong Industrial Complex, gas pipeline.

According to RIA Novosti:

Russia and North Korea have signed a new protocol to transition to using the ruble for payments between the two countries as part of an effort to boost annual bilateral trade to $1 billion by 2020, Russia’s Far East Development Ministry said Friday.

The announcement came as Russian officials have expressed a desire to explore new markets for the country’s businesses, following the introduction of sanctions by the West in reaction to Moscow’s stance over Crimea. Russian leaders have simultaneously reassured international investors the country remains open for business, and there are no plans to restrict international commerce.

The protocol announced Friday came following a visit of a Russian delegation to the Asian country for a meeting of a standing bilateral commission, timed to mark the 65th anniversary of a cooperation agreement between the Soviet Union and North Korea.

The parties agreed to move towards settling payments in rubles as well as adopting further measures to boost bilateral trade, including easing visa procedures and providing for Russian access to proposed special economic zones in the country, the ministry’s statement said.

The ministry reaffirmed the countries’ mutual interest in joint projects with South Korea, including international connections for railways [Iron Silk Road], gas pipelines and power lines.

The Russian delegation also proposed the entry of Russian businesses into the Kaesong Industrial Park, a special economic zone in North Korea just north of Seoul where South Korean companies are allowed to employ northern workers.

The two sides identified areas for further cooperation, including a transshipment complex at the port of Rason and technical cooperation for the modernization of North Korea’s mining sector, automobile industry and electric power plants.

According to the statement, during the talks Russian Far East Development Minister Alexander Galushka emphasized that achieving such goals would only be possible if stability is maintained on the Korean peninsula.

The next meeting of the bilateral commission is scheduled for June in Russia’s far eastern Vladivostok.

Here is what Yonhap reports:

North Korea and Russia have agreed to boost economic ties by pushing for trilateral projects involving South Korea, including a plan to support Russian companies’ entry into an inter-Korean industrial complex, a media report said Saturday.

The agreement between the two was made earlier this week when Russia’s Far East Development Minister Alexander Galushka visited the North for a five-day run until Friday to explore ways to boost bilateral economic cooperation, according to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

“The Russian delegation proposed the entry of Russian businesses into the Kaesong Industrial Park, a special economic zone in North Korea just north of Seoul where South Korean companies are allowed to employ northern workers,” the RIA Novosti reported, citing the ministry.

Officials of Seoul’s unification ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, welcomed the agreement between the North and Russia, while stressing the importance of Russia’s prior consultation with the South.

“Russian companies’ making inroads into the Kaesong park is desirable in terms of the internationalization of the complex … It would also prevent the North from unilaterally reversing its agreement with Seoul over the Kaeesong operation,” the ministry official said, requesting anonymity.

Internationalization of the enclave, a symbol of inter-Korean detente, is one of the key topics for inter-Korean meetings aimed at ensuring its normal operations and further invigorating the complex. The Kaesong park resumed operations in September, more than five months after the North unilaterally closed it in anger over Seoul-Washington joint military exercises.

“But it is crucial for Russia to discuss the matter with our side first as it is basically operated by the South Korean authorities,” he added.

A handful of companies from China, Australia and Germany have so far expressed interests in making an investment in the Kaesong complex, prompting the Seoul government to review holding joint presentation sessions with the North to lure investors from overseas, according to another ministry official.

Here is additional information from Yonhap on recent shipments from Russia to the DPRK:

Russia exported US$21.16 million’s worth of jib cranes, machinery used mostly for cargo handling at ports, to North Korea last year, accounting for nearly 22 percent of its total exports to the North, according to the report by the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA). The amount surpasses that of Russia’s traditional export goods such as coal, petroleum and bituminous oil.

There were no records of the machines being exported to North Korea the year before, with the 2011 amount standing at $139,000.

North Korea and Russia maintain economic relations that include a project that would make North Korea’s northeastern port city of Rajin a logistics hub by connecting it to Russia’s Trans-Siberian Railway. North Korea is said to have agreed to a long-term lease of the No. 3 dock at Rajin port to Russia and that it is modernizing facilities there. The cranes may be for such modernization efforts, the KOTRA report said.

Also noteworthy is Russia’s exports of ambulances to the North, amounting to approximately 10.1 billion won ($9.45 million), the fourth largest in terms of value. Ambulances are a relatively new product on the trade list.

KCNA’s reporting of the meeting was much more muted:

DPRK Premier Meets Minister of Development of Far East of Russia

Pyongyang, March 26 (KCNA) — Pak Pong Ju, premier of the DPRK Cabinet, met Alexandr Galushka, minister of the Development of Far East of Russia who is chairman of the Russian side to the Inter-governmental Committee for Cooperation in Trade, Economy, Science and Technology between the DPRK and Russia, and his party.

He had a friendly talk with them who paid a courtesy call on him at the Mansudae Assembly Hall on Wednesday.

Minutes of Talks between Governments of DPRK, Russia Signed

Pyongyang, March 26 (KCNA) — Minutes of talks on cooperation in trade, economy, science and technology between the governments of the DPRK and Russia were signed here Wednesday.

Present at the signing ceremony were Ri Ryong Nam, minister of Foreign Trade who is chairman of the DPRK side to the Inter-governmental Committee for Cooperation in Trade, Economy, Science and Technology between the DPRK and Russia, and officials concerned, Alexandr Galushka, minister for the Development of Far East who is chairman of the Russian side to the Inter-governmental Committee, and his party and Alexandr Timonin, Russian ambassador to the DPRK.

Ri Ryong Nam and Alexandr Galushka signed the minutes of the talks.

Read the full story here:
Russia, North Korea Agree to Settle Payments in Rubles in Trade Pact
RIA Novosti
2014-3-28

N. Korea, Russia to discuss supporting Moscow firms’ advance into Kaesong park
Yonhap
2014-3-29

Share