Common Diseases in North Korea
For the past years 30 years, North Korea has been incredibly impoverished. The health care system in North Korea is minuscule at best. Children are often malnourished to the point of stunted growth, people cannot receive proper medical attention, and diseases that have been largely eradicated in most parts of the world are still prevalent. Common diseases in North Korea stem from poverty.

North Korea has a unique poverty situation; the government puts money into military spending instead of focusing on the health and prosperity of its people.

In North Korea, the greatest number of deaths come from non-communicable diseases. Although non-communicable diseases—such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and respiratory diseases—cause the most mortality, the magnitude of problems caused by malnutrition and communicable diseases increases the likelihood of disease burden in the future. A lack of sufficient nutrition makes fighting off diseases difficult because the immune system has no strength. About a third of North Korean children show signs of stunted growth; starving children are also more susceptible to diseases, making their life expectancy low.

Common diseases in North Korea include cardiovascular disease, cancer, and chronic respiratory disease. In 2013, strokes, ischemic heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease were North Korea’s most deadly sources of harm. Communicable diseases like tuberculosis and malaria are endemic in North Korea. Tuberculosis, a curable disease, affects 345 out of 100,000 North Koreans. This is considered to be one of the highest rates outside of sub-Saharan Africa. Tuberculosis is a disease associated with poverty, bleak conditions, and a lack of sanitation.

One of the main reasons why these health issues are so apparent is that there is zero guarantee of health care. Article 56 of the North Korean constitution specifies free medical care for all citizens. This has not been accurate. If a patient is unable to provide money or a gift to a doctor, their illness will often go untreated. Most of the patients are too impoverished to provide any sort of compensation. Even if they can provide compensation, there are often not enough resources for help to be provided.

“There are doctors and buildings, but no aspirin, no anesthetic, no basic medicines, no heating, no soap, no milk and therefore no patients. The health system in North Korea collapsed, leaving almost the entire population with no care except for traditional ‘Korio’ herbal medicine,” said Dr. Eric Goemaere, director of Doctors Without Borders. The lack of resources has been going on for approximately four years.

Common diseases in North Korea, such as tuberculosis, show that North Korea is behind the international community. Instead of using its money to provide health care, it uses it for military spending. However, North Korea can’t be a strong, resilient nation when its people are sick. North Korea needs to think about the needs of the people and give doctors the resources to help the sick effectively.

Lucy Voegeli

Photo: Flickr

Countries That Still Have Slavery
Although modern slavery is not always easy to recognize, it continues to exist in nearly every country. In total, there are 167 countries that still have slavery and around 46 million slaves today, according to the 2016 Global Slavery Index.

The U.S. Department of State defines modern slavery as “the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.”

India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan and North Korea are at the top of the list for countries that still have slavery. Here are some facts about what slavery is like in each of these countries.

The Highest Numbers: 6 Countries That Still Have Slavery

  1. India (18.4 Million) India has the highest number of slaves in the world. Like many other countries, modern slavery in India can take the shape of domestic service, forced begging, commercial sexual exploitation, forced marriage and forced recruitment for armed services. Because of India’s growing economy, many modern slaves work in factories that export goods to other countries. Consequently, men, women and children work long hours without proper compensation or even basic rights.
  2. China (3.4 Million) The Chinese government relies on exports of goods and raw materials even more than India. According to a CNN report, people in China are forced into labor across many different industries. The migration of poor families from rural to urban areas in search of jobs often leads to opportunities for traffickers. Although families travel together, many eventually split up. Individuals sell young boys to other families who lack sons, and girls often face sex slavery or forced marriage.
  3. Pakistan (2.1 Million) Modern slavery in Pakistan, like India, centers on debt bondage, or bonded labor. Brick-making employs around 10 million people in Pakistan. Children and families often work 10 hours each day in brick kilns and are denied basic rights or laws to protect them. Without this protection, workers face torture and sexual exploitation.
  4. Bangladesh (1.5 Million) Contemporary slavery in Bangladesh is accounted for through 80 percent forced labor and 20 percent forced marriage, according to the Global Slavery Index. Poverty, natural disasters and government corruption have made Bangladesh the 11th most vulnerable country to slavery within Asia.
  5. Uzbekistan (1.2 Million) The main cash crop of Uzbekistan is cotton. Each fall, when cotton crops are booming, the government forces millions of people out of their jobs to work in the cotton fields. International organizations monitor the process, however, the government still does not compensate these people. They also do not enforce proper safety precautions.
  6. North Korea (1.1 Million) The government of North Korea has done little to criminalize modern slavery. People of all ages are subject to forced labor while their government says they are “living in a socialist paradise.” One in twenty North Koreans is enslaved. Although the country does not have the highest total number of slaves, it does have the highest concentration of forced labor.

While many countries have taken steps toward banning and criminalizing slavery, there is still much to do. Countries that still have slavery are facing many problems that we all must address. “Improving the rights of 45.8 million human beings is both wise and urgent for all leaders of countries and organizations,” said Andrew Forrest, Founder and Chairman of the Walk Free Foundation. “Eradicating slavery makes sense; morally, politically, logically and economically.”

Madeline Boeding

Photo: Flickr

Support North Korean Refugees
North Korea’s government is one of the most restrictive in the world. Unpaid labor is forced upon North Korean civilians, independent press and media are banned and the borders are guarded and monitored closely by both North Korean and Chinese guards. Human Rights Watch reports that North Korea contains prison camps holding hundreds of thousands of North Korean citizens of all ages. Conditions there include torture, sexual abuse and, for those accused of serious crimes, public execution. Discussed below are organizations that support North Korean refugees.

Liberty in North Korea

This organization helps North Koreans escape using calculated courses through China and Southeast Asia. To accomplish this, Liberty in North Korea leverages on-ground relationships and donor funding. The organization also has very systematic resettlement programs available to support North Korean refugees including translation, healthcare, integration and counseling services. Additionally, Liberty in North Korea educates, mobilizes and encourages others to support North Korean refugees via events and fundraisers. The organization has a thorough breakdown of how funds are distributed throughout the escape and resettlement process, and it claims that $3,000 will save and resettle one North Korean refugee.

North Korean Freedom Coalition

This organization partners with political leaders to support North Korean victims of human rights violations. It also hosts the annual North Korean Freedom Week, which raises awareness of the North Korean atrocities and gains support for the freedom of North Korean prisoners being unjustly held. This is a collaboration of several public and private members, including several different independent charities.

Helping Hands Korea (HHK)

This is a non-denominational Christian organization that provides food and basic necessities to North Koreans based on the level of support each requires. HHK also assists with the transport of refugees through Asia to safety. Although the spread of Christianity is not the primary goal of HHK, the organization provides each refugee a Bible and a message of hope.

The level of human rights violations in North Korea has not received the amount of attention it deserves, and further education is necessary to address these issues in a rational and effective way. North Korea continues to develop its weapon systems and actively test nuclear weapons and missiles, in violation of U.N. agreements. The U.S. has hinted that it is willing to use force in dealing with North Korea, but a war would cause an astronomical number of casualties, especially in South Korea. While China has increased its pressure on North Korea to denuclearize, it must take a stronger role in abolishing the inhumane treatment of North Korean citizens and support North Korean refugees.

Emma Tennyson

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in North Korea
Water quality in North Korea continues to deteriorate. The country’s water system and sanitation systems are both in a state of disrepair. Even though the country invested in an extensive piped water supply system in the early ’80s, due to natural disasters and low levels of investments the water system in compromised.

As a result of inadequate water quality, North Korea has had poor sanitation and unhygienic behavior from its citizens, resulting in an increased rate of under-five mortality.

Due to the condition of water quality in North Korea, UNICEF’s WASH program has focused on contributing to improved access and utilization of safe drinking water, sanitation services and good hygiene practices in communities and schools in the country.

In 2015, North Korea was impacted by a drought that lasted 18 months, resulting in the lack of drinking water and a further worsening of the country’s water supply system — resulting in an increase in the prevalence of water-borne diseases.

The water quality in North Korea is further threatened by limited sewerage networks and low water levels.

Access to potable water in the country is almost always inadequate and organizations like Concern Worldwide continue to work with local authorities and communities to provide alternative energy and pumping systems to provide North Koreans with water and also build latrines.

Water quality in North Korea continues to negatively impact the country’s food supply and without proper development will continue to result in malnutrition and disease.

While the country’s water issues seem grim, the country has developed a five-year economic plan which focuses primarily on the simultaneous development of nuclear weapons and the economy as a means to improve living conditions in the country.

Although water quality in North Korea continues to worsen, there remains a glimmer of hope in sight for the people of North Korea.

Rochelle R. Dean

Photo: Flickr

Many facets of life in North Korea are kept secret from the world. The business conducted in the nation is very classified, but what about its school systems? How are the youth of North Korea educated?

Education in North Korea is based on socialistic ideals and an efficiency-oriented school system with emphasis on Korean language, mathematics, literature, and the Kims.

Features of the system include 11 free years of education for children from the age of five through 15, no private schools and tight administrative control over the schools by the state administrative system.

Students are given a political education in the “Juche Doctrine” which outlines the Kim Il-sung ideology and revolutionary strategies, illustrating the importance and necessity of collectivistic activities in their nation. Putting these theories into practice are the basis of the North Korean school system.

Not to mention the leader of the communist nation, Kim Jong-un, forces his people to understand the importance of his family. According to a study by the  Korea Institute for Curriculum Evaluation, students learn more about the Kims and their history than any other subject.

Each North Korean student is required to learn about the lives of Kim, his late father Kim Jong-il, his grandfather Kim Il-sung and grandmother Kim Jong-suk for at least 684 hours during the curriculum. Jong-il and Il-sung lessons are roughly 171 hours each, while Jung-suk lessons are only 34 hours.

Why is the combination of Kim’s history and the three bases used? Simple — to help North Korea maintain its oppressive power.

Students as young as four years old are taught about the greatness of the communist ideology and their leaders, past and present, shaping their minds to believe in the North Korean way. There is an emphasis on math in order to help create future technicians, scientists and workers that the government can rely on to help achieve the nation’s goals.

Children are supposed to learn phrases like “Long live Great Leader Generalissimo Kim Il-sung” before “Hello, how are you.”

Uniformity is the most common characteristic among schools in North Korea, comparable to the government. Rather than living up to needs of the youth, education in North Korea more closely relates to the political system. Diversity and creativity in North Korean schools are rarely nurtured.

Overall, instead of producing creative and unique individuals, education in North Korea is based on producing more followers and worshippers of the North Korean regime.

Mary Waller

Photo: Flickr

Refugees in South Korea
South Korea today is considered an economic powerhouse, known for tech giants like Samsung and catchy Korean pop tunes. However, as a rising world leader, South Korea is also taking on more responsibilities for refugees, especially defectors from their neighbor to the north. Here are seven facts about refugees in South Korea:

  1. Some North Korean refugees in South Korea eventually became stars on South Korean reality TV. One show, “Now On My Way to Meet You,” features a panel of North Korean women who talk about life under the North Korean regime. The show’s staff also help the women track down lost family members and reunite them. Other shows pair up North Korean refugees with South Korean reality stars. Experts, however, are divided over whether this recent TV craze helps or hurts tensions with the North.
  2. In 1998, only 12% of North Korea refugees in South Korea were women. According to a survey conducted by a South Korean news agency, the percentage of female refugees jumped to 70% in 2012.
  3. Between 2008 and 2012, the number of North Korean defectors to South Korea who were of middle and high school age nearly doubled from 966 to 1,992. Refugee children, however, reportedly have a difficult time adjusting to school life in the South due to cultural differences.

  1. Refugee children have a middle school enrollment rate of 57.9% and a high school enrollment rate of 10.9%, compared to a high school enrollment rate of 98% for South Korean children.
  2. To remedy this problem, the South Korean government has tried implementing “special schools” for North Korean refugees in South Korea. Among the most well-known of these special schools is the Hankyoreh High School, which teaches refugees the national common curriculum and holds individual sessions to meet each student’s individual needs.
  3. South Korea, along with Japan, has among the strictest refugee policies. Since 1994, as many as 1,144 Syrian refugees have applied for asylum in South Korea, yet government figures show that only three have been approved.
  4. Despite a tight refugee admission policy, South Korea has donated a sum worth $500,000 to a U.N. agency to support Palestinian refugee children in Syria. The donation will be used to better the lives of young girls living in Palestine.

South Korea’s rapid economic success is seen globally as an economic “Miracle on the Han River,” but the prestige of economic success also comes with global responsibilities. One hopes that refugees in South Korea will find miracles of their own.

Mary Grace Costa

Photo: Flickr

Top 5 Non-Democratic Countries
Every person, both in democratic and non-democratic countries, is born with certain unalienable rights; among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. People everywhere, especially today, want the freedom to not only to be their own leader, but also to excel and enjoy life the way they intend to. But even today, there are countries that lack the basic human rights and prevent their own people from excelling under one unquestionable monarch. Democracy is the most common type of rule because it seeks to safeguard freedom and choice by keeping people involved at every level. While it can’t be said that non-democratic countries always constrain people from basic freedom, it is too often the case, as is seen in these five non-democratic countries.

  1. Saudi Arabia
    This is a prominent example of one of the many non-democratic countries that lack basic human rights. There is an absolute monarch in Saudi Arabia where the king, currently Salman of Saudi Arabia, serves as the country’s head of state, leader of the national government and commander-in-chief of the nation’s military. The people of Saudi Arabia are denied any substantial voice as authorities systematically discriminate against women and religious minorities, and judicial punishments are unbelievably inhumane. In 2015 alone, Saudi Arabia carried out 158 executions, 63 for non-violent drug crimes, according to the Human Rights Watch.
  2. North Korea
    As one of the world’s most secretive and repressive societies, North Korea is an authoritarian state currently run by the supreme leader Kim-Jong Un. The government imposes harsh restrictions on freedom of information and movement by threatening the people with forced labor and public executions. A 2014 UN report documented extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortion and other sexual violence in North Korea.
  3. Vietnam
    Vietnam is a one-party communist state where the president is the head of state and the prime minister is the head of government. Vietnam actively suppresses any religious rights and the only party that rules the country has a complete monopoly on political power. Basic rights, including freedom of speech, opinion, press, association and religion, are restricted. On a positive note, the government of Vietnam and the World Bank Group jointly prepared a report, Vietnam 2035, that lays out their goal of equity and a reform of the lower middle class.
  4. Jordan
    Jordan, an Arab nation on the east bank of the Jordan River, is a constitutional monarchy where the Monarch is the head of state, the chief executive and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Jordan restricts freedom of expression and speech by prosecuting their citizens for ‘insulting an official body’ or speaking against the King. Jordan also discriminates against women by not allowing them to pass Jordanian citizenship to their children.
  5. China
    China is the biggest communist state where the government controls over 50 percent of the economy. Because of the government’s reluctance to allow western influences, it enforces strong internet censorship on the world’s top rated websites like Google, Facebook, Twitter and many others. Many fundamental human rights are limited, including freedom of expression, association, assembly and religion.

Other non-democratic countries include Turkmenistan, the U.K., Cuba, Iraq and many others. But whether a government is democratic or non-democratic, the priority should be for its citizens to enjoy basic human rights.

Mayan Derhy

Photo: Flickr

Sanctions. A frequently employed strategy to mollify human rights abuses has been marked, at best, as underwhelmingly ineffective.

In 1948, the U.N. General Assembly outlined a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which “sets out basic rights and freedoms to which all women and men are entitled – among them the right to life, liberty, and nationality; to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, the right to work and to be educated; the right to food and housing; and the right to take part in the government.”

Unfortunately, the UDHR has been ineffective at upholding member-states to their obligations. Violent and nonviolent human rights abuses are common practice for unscrupulous governments.

According to information gathered by Amnesty International, out of the 160 countries in which data was collected, 119 countries arbitrarily restricted freedom of expression. During 2014, at least 18 countries committed war crimes or other violations of the “laws of war.”

In an effort to avoid draconian measures when correcting the irresponsible behavior of international actors, the global community has developed a pattern of implementing sanctions – the process suppressing or excluding economies from reaping the benefits of the global trade system.

Recently, however, the efficacy of sanctions has been questioned. Reports by the International Association for Political Science Students noted that sanctions disproportionately provide adverse consequences for the innocent population, but not the guilty leadership.

The now dismembered U.N. Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights issued a resolution in August 1997 where it condemned the use of sanctions as a tool of international diplomacy – further increasing skepticism on the efficacy.

Consequently, both selective and comprehensive sanctions discourage the promotion of human rights, and in fact, create counter-productive consequences – e.g. less distribution of wealth and the advent of black market business practices.

A recent example that undermines the efficacy of sanctions is the U.S. led sanctions on North Korea, which concentrated the remaining resources and wealth in Pyongyang (with the government). As a result, famished North Koreans resorted to cannibalism as an attempt to garner the necessary nutrients to survive.

Other long-standing recipients of U.S. sanctions are Iran and Cuba, which were marked as a pariah for their involvement in the sponsorship of terrorism and spread of communism, respectively. Fortunately, the U.S. has begun to normalize relations with Cuba and is likely to undergo a “fresh-start” without U.S. administered sanctions.

Some sanctions have remained intact for over 30 years without a change in behavior by the target country. At one point, the international community must begin to question the efficacy, as the primary objective to correct misguided international behavior is not achieved. Additionally, the international community must also wonder if the act of sanctioning itself is a violation of the UDHR, as the collateral damage of innocent civilians’ deaths continues to rise.

Adam George

Photo: Flickr

High Energy Biscuit
The World Food Program (WFP) High Energy Biscuit is pre-packaged and full of high-protein cereals, micronutrients and vegetable fat and requires zero preparation to be consumed. This food product extends to all groups suffering from hunger — women, children, infants, the elderly, those struggling with disease and communities in rural, underdeveloped regions, such as the Philippines, Kenya, North Korea and Afghanistan.

The biscuits serve as a lifesaving snack to survivors of natural disasters, conflicts and contain a multitude of healthy ingredients to keep individuals, especially children, strong and focused in school.

In 2014, WFP distributed its “biscuit-factory-in-a-box,” which, along with the WFP High Energy Biscuit, contains a variety of foods that are delivered to the world’s hungry. This includes fortified blends, or “mixtures of partially precooked and milled cereals, soya and beans that have been infused with micronutrients for additional health benefits.”

The primarily blended food produced by WFP is corn soya blend, cooked with water to create a warm, nourishing porridge. The blends not only provide protein supplements but also prevent and address nutritional deficiencies. Ready-To-Use Foods are also transported, typically to treat malnutrition among children between the ages of six months and five years old.

These products are easily accessible for poor families who lack access to running water or electricity, as they do not require heat or water to cook. The oil-based, low moisture consistency prevents bacterial contamination and gives them a long shelf life.

The successful impact of the WFP High Energy Biscuit and how much this program has grown since it was initially created has been documented over the years. Individuals who have benefited from the foods include more than 200,000 flood victims from Kenya, as well as 850,000 primary school children in North Korea, where the attendance rate has increased as a result of the incredible amount of aid offered to schools in the local area.

Most recently noted, the WFP High Energy Biscuit made its way to the people affected by the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan in the city of Tacloban. In the early days of the emergency response, the biscuits made a big difference and served as a light, convenient form of food aid. WFP has extended its operating locations, with one particular factory in Kabul, Afghanistan as the newest supplier for the WFP High Energy Biscuit.

WFP shows workers in new locations how to make the biscuits using local ingredients. This provides food for more people living in impoverished locations while stimulating the economies of these regions.

Mikaela Frigillana

Photo: Flickr

Facts about Poverty in North Korea
North Korea is constantly in the news due to its nuclear tests programs. The majority of state funds are spent on its nuclear program while social institutions are overlooked. Millions suffer from extreme poverty in North Korea as a result.


10 Leading Facts on Poverty in North Korea


  1. The poverty line. Forty percent of the population, about 24 million people, live below the poverty line. Most workers earn $2 to $3 per month. The standard of living has deteriorated to extreme levels of deprivation while the average life expectancy has fallen by five years since early the 1980s.
  2. Food shortages. With the prevalent poverty in North Korea, food shortages are widespread. A famine that started in the 1990s had a lasting effect, forcing the country to become reliant on international aid to feed its people. However, since 2009 food assistance has declined significantly. A study by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization found that 84% of households have “borderline or poor food consumption.” The food crises had resulted in thousands of deaths. According to the World Food Programme, one-third of children are stunted due to malnutrition and the infant mortality rate is 33%. Due to the government’s “two meals a day campaign” food riots are a common occurrence.
  3. The giant rabbit feeding program. In order to solve the widespread food shortages, Kim Jun-il began to breed giant overweight rabbits in 2007. He got this idea after seeing Karl Szmolinsky, a German rabbit breeder, breed the world’s largest rabbit. Szmolinsky sent overweight rabbits to North Korea but the experiment turned out to be a failure when it was suspected Kim was eating the rabbits himself.
  4. Human feces government program. Farming fertilizers used to be imported from South Korea. However, South Korea stopped sending them in 2008. The government, therefore, created a program where farmers had to use their own feces as fertilizers. Factory workers have to meet a quota of two tons of human feces.
  5. Right to health is denied. Although the country declares that healthcare is free, residents are denied medical treatment unless they can pay the high prices for medicine.
  6. Military programs use most of the funds. North Korea spends a lot of its funds on the military. In 2001, the country spent more than $5 billion on military spending alone, which is more than 30% of the country’s GDP. North Korea is believed to have around half a dozen nuclear weapons.
  7. Despite high poverty rates, the leader is worth $5 billion. According to the 2011 corruption index from Transparency International, North Korea is officially the world’s most corrupt country. It is estimated that Kim inherited $4 billion from his father. According to a South Korean news organization, he is worth as much $5 billion. The money is held in secret accounts in European banks and comes from counterfeiting, the sales of narcotics and other illegal endeavors. Kim also spends vast amounts of money on luxury goods. It is reported he spent $645.8 million in 2012.
  8. Refugees who are caught are sent to prison labor camps. Leaving the country without official permission is a crime. The government uses the threat of detention and forced labor as repercussions for disobedience. Many families flee to China to seek refuge overseas. However, those that are caught are sent to political prisoner camps. The camps carry out systemic abuse. Death rates at these camps are reportedly very high. U.S. and South Korean officials estimate that between 80,000 to 120,000 people are imprisoned in these camps.
  9. Crystal meth epidemic. North Korea suffers a widespread meth epidemic. To negate the horrid economy with little to no government help, the production of drugs is used as an economic stimulus. In 2000, North Korean factories began to produce methamphetamine. This caused an increase in the domestic use of meth. The drug is now very occurrence and is seen as something of a luxury. As a result, many North Koreans have become addicted to the drug. It is estimated that 80% of residents have used the drug while 40% are addicted.
  10. The satire film “The Interview” gets a lot right. According to an expert, the film gets a lot right, specifically the psychology of North Korea. Visitors to Pyongyang in the famine years used to describe supermarkets that displayed plastic produce, just as is portrayed in the film.

Kim Jong Un’s rise to power is seen as a threat to western political leaders. However, the international community has begun to focus on North Korea’s human rights violations and poverty in the country.

Marcelo Guadiana

Photo: Flickr