Seoul seeks to cooperate in modernizing N. Korea’s regional hospitals: minister

Tony Chang

South and North Koreas’ top health officials have tentatively agreed to cooperate in modernizing regional hospitals in the communist country, Seoul’s health minister said Monday.

“During unofficial talks with North Korean Health Minister Choi Chang-sik, we’ve agreed to seek joint projects to modernize provincial hospitals in the North,” Byun Jae-jin, South Korea’s health minister, told reporters.

Byun was part of a Seoul delegation that accompanied President Roh Moo-hyun during his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il last week, where both sides also agreed to end military hostility and significantly expand inter-Korean cooperation in various fields.

The minister said last week that the two Koreas agreed to cooperate in welfare and medicine, possibly forming an inter-Korean medical body to deal with future peninsula-wide epidemics, Seoul’s top health official said Thursday.

Choi, along with other top North Korean officials, reportedly requested South Korea to construct a pharmaceutical factory in Nampo, near the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, according to Byun.

Seoul’s on-and-off aid to the communist state has mostly focused on food and other necessities, while medical supplies to North Korea have been largely organized by non-governmental organizations and other private agencies.

North Korea’s lack of basic medical supplies has often been cited in local and foreign media, with the country often requesting health-related supplies to combat diseases such as malaria and scarlet fever from the South.


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