“About 40 percent of the North Korean population is in poor nutrition. If an outbreak of the new coronavirus occurs in North Korea, it could cause irreversible damage. We are living on the very small land of the Korean Peninsula. If half of it is ill, the other half cannot be healthy. The South and North Korea should work together to build a system and routes to react to a crisis or a disaster jointly. That will save the lives of the two Koreas.”
Kim Sin-gon, president of the Association of Healthcare for Korean Unification (AHKU), said this and other remarks through a video clip on the concerns of the spread of the COVID-19 infections within North Korea, released by Korea University Medical Center on Monday. Kim is also a professor at the Endocrinology and Metabolism Department at the Korea University Anam Hospital.
|Kim Sin-gon, president of the Association of Healthcare for Korean Unification (AHKU), speaks on the concerns of the spread of the COVID-19 infections within North Korea in a video released by Korea University Medical Center on Monday.|
North Korea’s state media recently claimed to have no cases of COVID-19 in the country. Still, experts’ opinions were split, with one supporting the North’s report and the other questioning whether it was true.
The two sides have their reasons to believe so, Kim said.
Those who presume that North Korea is free of COVID-19 said North Korea was faster than any other country to seal off the border from China. Also, the North as a socialist society focuses on preventive medicine, and the World Health Organization representative in North Korea also said there was no report of COVID-19 infection there, they said.
“North Korea is a country where the Party’s order gets delivered to small communities well and where preventive medicine is critical,” Kim said. “Unlike in South Korea where patients visit hospitals, North Korea has doctors that care for each village. One North Korean doctor is in charge of about 100-150 households.”
Such disease control and preventive medical system will help North Korea prevent infectious disease, he added.
Kim also noted that other experts assumed that that the COVID-19 outbreak might have already occurred in the North but went undetected. As 90 percent of the North Korean economy depends on China, it would have been impossible to close the border with China 100 perfectly, he said.
Although the North conducted the coronavirus testing for more than 100 people from mid-January, it might have failed to test people with PCR (polymerase chain reaction) devices quickly because PCR test kits are included in the United Nations sanctions, he added.
Kim emphasized that the COVId-19 crisis should be an opportunity for the two Koreas to seek common interests and establish joint risk management. The two Koreas should recognize the Korean Peninsula as a unified community and manage diseases and disasters together, he said.
Kim cited the example of the reunification of East and West Germany. The two sides officially established a joint system to respond to a health crisis through a healthcare treaty, more than 10 years before the reunification, he said.
“The Korean Peninsula is a small land of only 220,000 square kilometers. If half of them are not healthy, the other cannot be healthy either,” Kim said.
The two Koreas must build a system and routes to manage crises and disasters jointly, and doing so will save the lives of the two Korea, he reiterated.
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