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‘Answer to North Korea's healthcare strategy is in Vietnam’
  • By Lee Han-soo
  • Published 2018.09.18 11:46
  • Updated 2018.09.18 11:46
  • comments 0

The Korean Parliamentarian Forum on Global Health held a seminar to find future strategies for North Korea's healthcare system along with Vietnamese health officials and experts, at Sheraton Seoul D Cube City Hotel on Monday.

Vietnam has a similar history and political situation as North Korea. After the reunification of Vietnam in 1986, however, the country implemented the Doimoi reform, which incorporated the capitalist market economy under the communist regime.

Through this policy, Vietnam succeeded in introducing health insurance system and established a Grass Root Health Care (GRHC) network.

“As South Korea and international community increasingly need to help North Korea, they need to seek out strategic plans such as the development of a healthcare system in North Korea,” said Rep. Lee Myoung-soo of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party. Lee also serves as the chairman of Health and Welfare Committee at the National Assembly.

Professor Pham Manh Hung explains the Grass Root Health Care system, its accomplishment and future challenges in Vietnam, during a media conference at Sheraton Seoul D Cube City Hotel in Guro-dong, Seoul, Monday.

The Seoul government can learn a great deal from the case of Vietnam, which adopted the Doimoi reform in 1986, and received support from the international community and successfully managed to reform its healthcare system, Lee added.

During the conference, Vietnamese health experts, Professors Pham Huy Dung and Pham Manh Hung gave presentations on international cooperation and foreign aid for health development after Vietnam’s reunification, as well as the country’s GRHC network.

GHRC network is a service that provides primary care to the Vietnamese people living in poor rural areas where diseases are widespread. Through the system, Vietnam has managed to establish health centers throughout the country and eradicate or control most of the infectious diseases.

To develop a policy for North Korea’s medical system, South Korea should thoroughly analyze and benchmark Vietnam’s past movements, the participants agreed.

“Vietnam, which introduced a capitalist market economy in a socialist country, is still showing various incompatible forms in reality,” said Lee Yong-gab director of Health Insurance Policy Research Institute. “In discussing support for North Korea's support, Vietnam's example, such as the introduction of GRHC network, can become valuable.”

However, some experts also expressed that establishing a healthcare support system in North Korea has to go through proper international channels.

“In a situation where North Korea is under U.N. and U.S. sanctions, an inter-Korean economic exchange may conflict with such sanctions,” said Professor Go Myong-hyun, a research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies. “Before North Korea makes a visible denuclearization process, all humanitarian assistance to North Korea should be approached with great caution.”

As a rule of thumb, any assistance that goes beyond supplying over-the-counter drugs is likely to contradict some of the export control requirements imposed by the U.S. government, Professor Go added.


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