What We Know about Health and Health Services in North Korea (Event Video)

The Center for Global Development and The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies present a Massachusetts Avenue Development Seminar (MADS)* on

What We Know About Health and Health Services in North Korea

Professor Gilbert Burnham 
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

With Discussant 
Roberta Cohen 
Brookings Institution

Little is known about health status and health services in North Korea. The reports that are published are often based on a small number of interviews about events from some years past (Amnesty International), or based on manipulated data (World Health Organization). The reports of defectors and increasing information from inside North Korea paints a picture of continued malnutrition, though less than the 1990s. Health indicators continue to deteriorate in North Korea. There are widespread infections such as tuberculosis, typhoid (and paratyphoid), and hepatitis, suggesting a collapse of public health infrastructure. Increasingly medicines are available principally in markets from private vendors. Hospitalization is common and requires gifts to doctors which may exceed 100% of the patient's monthly household income. Drug problems from locally manufactured methamphetamine is an increasing problem, and reports suggest it is widely available.

The presentation draws upon two recent papers:

Determinants of Well-Being in North Korea: Evidence from the Postfamine Period, by Daniel Schwekendiek; and

Mortality in North Korean Migrant Households: A Retrospective Study, by W Courtland Robinson, Myung Ken Lee, Kenneth Hill, Gilbert M Burnham.

*The Massachusetts Ave. Development Seminar (MADS) is a ten year-old research seminar series that brings some of the world’s leading development scholars to discuss their new research and ideas. The presentations meet an academic standard of quality and are at times technical, but retain a focus on a mixed audience of researchers and policymakers.