Insane Health Problems That Kim Jong Un Has Created for the North Korean People

For most of us living in the U.S., we don’t think twice about getting sick. We drink tea, take plenty of decongestant, and hope to feel much better within a few days. When it comes to North Korea, however, there’s a much different reality happening. Under Kim Jong Un’s leadership, North Koreans can expect a life expectancy of only 69 years old thanks to the country being riddled with disease, famine, and a corrupt health care system.

Kim Jong Un is living a life of luxury while his people are struggling for survival every single day. Here are the extreme health problems they’re facing.

This patient’s 10-inch parasite horrified doctors

Medical team preparing equipment for surgery.

This rare occurrence is becoming much more common. | Hin255/iStock/Getty Images

In more recent news, a defector from North Korea was operated on by surgeons in South Korea after being shot by his former comrades when attempting to flee the country. The BBC reports the patient has a number of large parasites in his body that are making it harder for him to heal.

South Korean doctor Lee Cook Jong, who has “never seen anything like this” in the entirety of his 20 years as a medical professional, removed one parasite from the defector’s intestines that was 11 inches long. He probably got these bugs by eating contaminated food, as North Korea uses human feces as fertilizer. And it’s likely others in the country have the same issue.

The medical system is totally corrupt

A doctor uses an iPad to look at a medical record.

Many people are often turned away at hospitals and clinics. | Miya227/iStock/Getty Images

North Korea has a long history of not-so-stellar health care. The Los Angeles Times says back in 2010, Amnesty International found the country’s health care system couldn’t provide sterilized needles, clean water, and food or medicine in hospitals — and many of the patients didn’t even have anesthesia for surgery. While the global average was to spend $716 per capita on health care, North Korea spent just $1.

A contributor for Business Insider had his own horrifying experience getting sick in North Korea. It was here he learned of the deeply corrupt health care system. For patients who were too poor to afford care, doctors would turn them away, and they’d never get treatment.

Their infant mortality rate is shockingly high

A mother holds a baby in her arm.

Vulnerable infants are especially at risk. |

With potentially unsafe hospital conditions, it’s no wonder the infant mortality rate in North Korea is through the roof. Per 1,000 live births, 27 of them will die, according to data from NationMaster. This number is seven times higher than South Korea’s. Even for babies born alive, they’re also at high risk for malnourishment because of North Korea’s scarce resources.

Business Insider also says the maternity hospital in Pyongyang, which boasts some new equipment and impressive technology, is reportedly frigid inside. Reporters said both patients and doctors wore gloves, coats, and scarves just to keep warm.

Infections causing pneumonia and diarrhea run rampant

North Korea students in white and red ties lining up to sign petitions.

There isn’t enough medical care for youths in North Korea. | STR/AFP/Getty Images

The discovery of parasites living within the North Korean defector shed some light on what other health problems citizens of the country may be facing. The Journal of Preventative Medicine and Public Health says infections that cause diarrhea and pneumonia are killing children at an alarming rate. Some reports even say over a third of school-age children in North Korea have diseases caused by the presence of parasites in their intestines.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, sexually-transmitted infections and hepatitis B are also huge problems for the country.

Diseases like malaria and tuberculosis have ravaged the country

North Korea military marching at the capital.

Citizens aren’t protected against common illnesses and diseases.  | Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

You don’t consider malaria or tuberculosis as much of a threat to your own health — but in North Korea, they’re both still major concerns. These diseases pose a huge threat to the country’s people, though mortality rates from both are steadily decreasing. Here’s what’s odd, though — while less people are dying of TB, the number of people catching the disease remains the same. And as for malaria, things are looking up, as incidences are decreasing countrywide.

Though North Korea is starting to get TB and malaria outbreaks under control, they’re not totally in the clear. The combination of communicable disease coupled with malnutrition and the rise of chronic disease is what’s really killing people.

Food is so scarce that there are fears over cannibalism

A sea of North Korean army members in gray hats.

Some people are resorting to extremes due to hunger. | Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

The Independent reports famine is so severe in certain parts of North Korea that there were rumors of cannibalism. One particularly unnerving report said a man living in a poor farming province dug up his grandchild’s corpse to eat it. And another informant in the province of South Hwanghae said a man who tried to eat his children was executed by firing squad.

History explains North Korea has dealt with famine since the mid-1990s. And today, around 41% of the population is undernourished.

And cardiovascular disease is the largest cause of death countrywide

A doctor raises a stethoscope.

Without access to regular checkups and medications, many will suffer from heart disease. | Ufokim/iStock/Getty Images

Oddly enough, the U.S. and North Korea actually have something in common — and that’s the looming threat of cardiovascular disease. Heart issues stand as the largest cause of death in North Korea. And WHO’s Global Burden of Disease Study in 2004 found heart disease in the country was three times higher than it was in South Korea.

So, why the high risk? An unhealthy diet, heavy tobacco usage, high blood pressure, and air pollution are all among the top reasons. And given Kim Jong Un’s love of cheese and wine, he’s at serious risk of developing heart disease as well.

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