The government of North Korea, euphemistically termed the “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”, is widely know for its genocidal policies. Due to a combination of greed, arrogance, incompetence and a complete disregard for human life, millions of people in North Korea died of starvation and disease in the late 1990s (BBC, February 18, 1998).
How are things going today in North Korea? It depends on who you ask.
Dr. Margaret Chan, who was installed as Director-General of the WHO at the behest of the Chinese government, recently visited North Korea. Here is what she said at a press conference on May 1, 2010:
Christy: Next question is from E J Cho of the Voice of America
EJ: Dr Chan, how to rate the nutritional level of ordinary North Koreans and how is this linked to their susceptibility to illnesses?
Dr Chan: Thank you E.J. for that question. As I have indicated earlier on, I spent about two and a half days in Pyongyang but based on what I saw, the population in the capital, in terms of their height and weight, they are pretty similar to Asian people who I have seen in other countries.
The next question from Jules in Kyoto News.
First question, your predecessor in 2001, Dr Brundtland said that the DPRK’s health system was in near collapse, and I quote. Now you say you are impressed with some improvements. But how would you rate the country’s overall health system?
The second question I have concerns this ranking…to what extent does WHO rely on DPRK figures, does WHO consider these figures to be reliable and if so, why?
Dr Chan: Thank you for those two very important questions. I would not be able to assess the situation as to what it was like in 2001, but in my discussion with the government, it was very clear to me that in 2001 or there about, was a very difficult period for the country because they had successive natural disasters.
Now based on what I have seen I can tell you they have something which most other developing countries would envy.
For example, DPRK has no lack of doctors and nurses, as we have seen in other developing countries where most of their doctors have migrated to other places.
But DPRK has enough doctors and nurses, they have a very elaborate health infrastructure, starting from the central to the provincial to the district level.
Shabtai: Can I clarify something earlier, you said the height and weight in DPRK is similar to that of other Asian countries, did I hear you right?
Dr Chan: I said what I saw in Pyongyang might not be representative for the entire country, but that is what I saw in the capital. Of course, one thing I recognized is that walking is quite well observed in that country, and I suggest that is why I didn’t see many obese people.
And if you look at me I am also an Asian, I am pretty short by Asian standards, so when I compare to most of the people I saw on the street, I can only make a very broad comparison.
But mind you, as I said, now in Asian countries, because of affluence and intake of food we are seeing obesity which I don’t see in DPRK.
Well, one thing Dr. Chan said is true. Obesity is not a problem in North Korea. However, her repeated attempts to reassure reporters about the nutritional status of North Koreans contradict numerous, independent reports of yet another famine that has already begun to kill people.
From The Hankyoreh, March 6, 2010
It is a widely believed fact that increasing numbers of North Koreans have starved to death in the wake of the currency reform that took place Nov. 30
Monk Beopryun, chairperson of Good Friends, a leading North Korean human rights movement non-governmental organization, said during a lecture held in Korea House, culture center of the South Korean Embassy in Washington D.C. on Mar. 4, “After the currency reform, a number of people have starved to death since mid-January.” It is known that the price of foods have risen 45 times compared to that before the currency reform.
According to him, as of now, food rations have been reduced or stopped even in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. North Korea’s ruling Korea Workers’ Party (KWP), has investigated the situation of their citizens. The results of investigation included 5660 cases of near starvation and approximately 2 thousand cases of starving to death. Thus, the KWP issued an order to allow the market to circulate temporarily on Jan. 31 and ordered to police not to crack down on food trade.
Monk Beopryun said, “Unrest as a result of their belief in their system has become more serious due to the hardships in their life.” He added, “Many residents in North Korea have thought that there are big problems in North Korean politics because the government has failed to help residents and it has finally resulted in starvation.”
From The Times, March 20, 2010
Once again, rice has disappeared from tables in North Korea. A famine looms and — as happened in the 1990s — millions could die.
Desperation is stamped on the faces of those few who have braved barbed-wire fences, armed guards and patrols to slip into neighbouring China. They seek food over freedom.
The Times met four women in a safe house in China this week who fled recently across the frontier. They described despair in North Korea at the growing prospect of starvation in the Stalinist state. The youngest, only 16, crossed the frozen river last month. The other three, in their 50s, left last year and were tight-lipped about how they got out because they must go back to help the families they left behind.
While snow falls outside, Choi Kum Ok squats on the floor of an anonymous apartment not far from the border. Her eyes fill with tears as she talks of the son she had to leave behind. “I came over to earn money for his medical care. I need to get him food or he will starve.”
She covers her face and sobs as she remembers the 1990s, when harvests failed and up to 10 per cent of the population starved. She lost a sibling. “I don’t want to talk about it,” she says.
A former security guard and member of the elite ruling Workers’ Party, she cannot understand how the leaders that she still worships could have failed their people so completely.
The Dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong Il, was in China this past week. Why?
From the Washington Post, May 7, 2010
North Korea watchers say they think Kim traveled to China in search of investment and aid, particularly food. North Korea’s moribund economy has been squeezed by tighter U.N. sanctions, and a food shortage this spring has reportedly caused starvation in some areas.
How is it that the Director-General of the WHO is unaware of the gathering crisis in public health in North Korea? Frankly, it is not credible that she does not know. She just doesn’t care.
How is it that the Public Health establishment is unaware that Margaret Chan is a Chinese government stooge who is sacrificing the health of the world’s people at the behest of her masters in Beijing? Frankly, it is not credible that they don’t know. They just don’t care.