Around 20 North Korean doctors have recently been forcibly located to Samjiyon, Yanggang Province, to work at a new hospital in the city, Daily NK has learned. The doctors, however, are reportedly complaining about the assignment because of Samjiyon’s poor food situation and bitter cold.

A source in Yanggang Province told Daily NK on Friday that the doctors were “forcibly assigned” to Samjiyon in mid-November as so-called “gift doctors” on orders from the government. They are now “voicing their resentment about being assigned to the depths of the countryside irrespective of their wishes,” the source claimed, speaking on condition of anonymity. 

According to the source, when a new hospital recently opened in Samjiyon local authorities realized they had a shortage of doctors. Samjiyon has seen an increase in the number of dwellings and migrants thanks to the ongoing modernization project in the area. Concerned about the situation, North Korean authorities recently forced the 20 or so doctors to relocate to the city.

Rodong Sinmun reported the opening of “Samjiyon City People’s Hospital” on Oct. 16. The paper described the new hospital as having “ultra-modern medical equipment and apparatuses in all sections,” including internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics and obstetrics.

The doctors forcibly relocated to Samjiyon include experienced doctors from Yanggang Province and young doctors fresh out of medical school, including graduates of Pyongyang Medical University, the source said. 

A doctor at a hospital in Pyongyang. / Image: Roan Harak, Flickr, Creative Commons

Samjiyon is known as the coldest place in North Korea. Because of this, doctors who had lived in relatively warmer areas have expressed discontent at their forced relocation. According to the source, some have complained: “How are we supposed to endure the bitter cold and put down roots and live in this place, where all you can see are mountains and dust?”

Dumbfounded at the fact that they must now subsist on potatoes after having lived on rice, the doctors feel as if they have been exiled or abandoned, according to the source.

The doctors reportedly got a stern warning from the Samjiyon Party Committee when it received reports about their complaints, the source further reported.  

“The chairperson of the municipal party committee took measures to stop their complaints. He claimed that while the rest of the country receives no rations, the rations Samjiyon residents get – just potatoes – are nonetheless on par with those Pyongyang residents receive. As such, they should be happy they are even getting rations and that they have been ungrateful toward the Party’s concern toward them,” the source said. 

“The Organization and Guidance Department in the municipal party committee also warned the doctors that if they tried to flee Samjiyon, their evaluation reports would forever be marked with an act of betrayal to the Party and that they would not be allowed to develop [professionally], no matter where they go,” he added. 

The doctors are temporarily living in a motel in Samjiyon because there are no other suitable places for them to reside, the source said. 

“They’ve been forcibly [relocated to the area] and, on top of that, they must live in an uncomfortable place. Their discontent is likely to grow,” he said, adding, “It’ll be hard for them to adapt to the situation when their hearts aren’t into it.”

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Kim Yoo Jin is one of Daily NK's freelance journalists. Please direct any questions about his articles to