With the ease in dealing with common illness in modern society, struggles to battle everyday sickness in other parts of the world can often be forgotten. As Americans a simple check-up or maybe a drive to the drug store is all we need to deal with the cold or the flu. Medical care is complicated for North Korean refugees. We recently received a report about one of our children in Second Wave whose mother’s ailments include: breast cancer, infectious hepatitis, heart disease, and more.
“Basically nothing is normal,” said our missionaries in the report.
North Koreans in China have a difficult time finding medical care. Hospitals cannot legally give care to North Korean refugees because of their illegal status. If it is illegal for a Chinese citizen to even give a meal to a North Korean, one can only imagine what the consequences would be for a doctor who is caught treating a North Korean refugee.
The lucky few who have found help through foreign aid organizations like Crossing Borders must find care through the doctors who are willing to take a chance (or a bribe) to care for them. There is no shopping around for the best doctor or getting a second opinion.
This is the reality for the many North Korean refugees who come to China for medical care because, believe it or not, the medical care in China is still better than what they have in North Korea, whose system is still stuck in the 1950s. Things were working fine when they were receiving medical supplies from allies like the Soviet Union.
“But by the early 1990s, the deficiencies in the system became more pronounced. Much of the medical equipment was obsolete and broken down, with spare parts impossible to obtain since the factories in the Communist-bloc countries where they were manufactures were by now privatized,” Barbara Demick wrote in her book, “Nothing to Envy.”
The medical system in North Korea by all accounts is still struggling today.
So what does a sick North Korean refugee do? Even as we work to serve them through various means, we at Crossing Borders realize that, currently, there are no perfect, sustainable solutions. It is an ongoing struggle. Please pray for the sick people of North Korea, and the North Korean refugees who desperately need healing care.