Black market diagnoses saving more lives

Seol Song Ah  |  2015-09-11 14:01
Read in Korean  

North Koreas crumbling medical care system touted for being free of charge has left many with no option but to look for help elsewhere, giving birth to a black health care market with retired doctors specializing in diagnosis and self-trained Korean medicine specialists, Daily NK has learned.   

Its been long since the free health care system collapsed, leaving nothing but the skeleton behind. Black markets selling medicine prescribed by individuals have been around for more than two decades, a source from South Pyongan Province told Daily NK in a telephone conversation yesterday. 

More recently, there have been doctors who diagnose patients and others who fill in prescriptions. The medicine is then sold to patients, so trade in this field is growing. 

This trend was corroborated by two additional sources in North Pyongan Province. 

The most crucial element in medical treatment is an accurate diagnosis, which is why so many people in the past had died from cirrhosis and ascites. However, recently those numbers have been falling thanks to a greater wealth of medical experts offering services through the back door, according to the source. 

Many doctors working in the black markets are retired from state hospitals, unable to make a living on measly wages. Some are without medical licenses and are usually self-taught Korean medicine doctors. 

The free medical system has been lost on people, leaving them without any treatment unless they pay up bribes at state hospitals. Struggling to even receive a proper diagnosis, people have been seeking out these doctors, the source said. This has led to the build-up of a much more structured, systematic, and specialized market for health care. 

Some Korean medicine doctors who have earned great reputations see patients lining up in front of their doors from the crack of dawn. They charge around 10 USD for a diagnosis, and the cost for prescriptions varies widely depending on the medicine required for treatment, according to the source. 

Law enforcement agencies carry out crackdowns, but even Ministry of Peoples Security personnel turn to these personal doctors if their wives get ill, he said. 

Last year, a Party secretary couldnt get proper treatment at the hospital, but he was able to see some results after receiving diagnosis for ascites by a private doctor and taking medicine, he added, punctuating the pervasive demand for black market treatment.

*Translated by Jiyeon Lee

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