North Korea’s Looming Health Crisis

So to what extent do we judge a country that has failed its citizens? When it loses a war it promised it would win? When it has a catastrophic economic collapse? Or perhaps when its health care fails its citizens so much, that each one receives only 32p a year on their healthcare, with 5% of their population now suffering from a Tuberculosis epidemic; all because the country itself seeks to boost its military power to rival its world counterparts?

I propose whilst the first two are entirely viable, North Korea is entirely guilty of the latter. In their attempt to unify themselves as a country of the first world persona, North Korea has caused 1 million of its own people to starve and die because of economic policies, with their escalating military spending causing millions more to starve even further. The situation has resulted in many choosing death over healthcare.

Many North Korean children are at risk of severe malnourishment

On the face of it, North Korea boosts free health care to its citizens, however their constant failure to lower their military budget and increase their health spending is a total abuse of the right of any human to health care. North Korea currently has its lowest recorded per capita of expenditure on health in the world, spending only 3% of their GDP on the health care of its citizens and yet spending 33.9% of their GDP on their military. This gap is likely to widen with North Korea’s increasing attachment to its nuclear program. This miniscule commitment to healthcare in North Korea has resulted in the country not even being able to provide sterilised needles, clean water, or medicine, as well as most hospitals operating without electricity or heat, and not stocking medicines now as staff sell them on the black market. Factor these hospital problems in with the 5% suffering from TB, and the fact that malnutrition and stunted growth is incredibly common amongst young North Korean children, it is hard to see how the country is not heading towards a full-scale humanitarian crisis.

Whilst sanctions against North Korea’s military spending have been employed by the UN, North Korea’s inability to help, feed and provide health care to its own citizens has created an increasingly dire situation. Care needs to be taken to ensure that people know that desperate medical and food aid needs to be made available for the people of North Korea. Indeed with the UN asking for $198 million as of 2012, the number itself shows the scale of the solution needed to help those in the country who have been neglected for so long by a government of whom is perverted enough to put its military ego in front of its citizens’ needs and human rights.

Oliver Gamston


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