South Korea’s Average Life Span 78 years – North Korea’s 64…a 14-year Difference

[imText1]North Korean civilians’ average life span was disclosed to be approximately 14-years lower than the average life span in South Korea.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare said through inspection documents of the administration on “North Korea’s Health and Medical Situation,” which was recently submitted to the National Assembly.

According to this document, the North Korean civilians’ average life span is 61.4 years for males and 67.3 for females, an average of 64.3 years. For South Korea, the average is 78.1 years, with 74.4 for males and 81.8 for females.

The significant difference in average life span for North and South Korea reflects the fact that the severely worsened medical environment in North Korea.

According to the document, North Korean teenage boys’ smoking rate is supposed to be at an extremely alarming level. In the case of 16-year old males, the smoking rate is around 59.9%. This exceeds by 20.7% the smoking rate of South Korea high school students, provided by the Korean Association of Smoking and Health.

Cigarettes in North Korea, in contrast to South Korean cigarettes, contain a very high level of tar and nicotine content as well as higher toxicity, due to the fact that cigarettes lack filters or are hand-made.

One defector said, “In North Korea, even very young children smoke cigarettes without reservation and easily come in contact with them because they do not have much else to do.”

The document also revealed that 32~40% of North Korea’s 20~34 year olds show signs of malnutrition and approximately 34~36% of them are anemic patients.

These results can be attributed to North Korea’s continuous food shortage situation; disease rates due to malnutrition and anemic are high.

North Korea’s birth rate is 1.94, higher than South Korea’s 1.19. However, the infant mortality rate, between `99~`02, was 23.5 per 1,000 persons, but conversely, the `06 mortality rate was 42 persons, 14 times higher than South Korea’s (at 3 persons).
The health span (a period without sickness or handicap) is 52.3 years old (based on 2000 data), a significant decrease from South Korea’s 67.8 years (in 2005).

The reason why North Korea’s health and medical situation is so tenuous as shown above is due to the lack of the state’s investment in this area. The actual situation is that there is an unmistakable gap between North Korea’s single dollar payment for a person’s health and medical fee and South Korea’s $625.

Further, in North Korea, it is extremely difficult to obtain basic medical goods, such as cold medicine or antibiotics.

One defector who escaped in 2005 said, “In North Korea, even if one wants to go to the hospital, he or she cannot receive treatment without any money and there is not even a full equipment of medicine. It is much easier to buy medicine in the jangmadang than in a hospital, because there is more variety and it is more easily obtainable. Only, the price of medicine, compared to other products, transcends the imagination.”

The Ministry of Health and Welfare plans to invest 294 million won (approx. USD316,120) to modernize the People’s Hospital in Gosung and Songdo in Kaesung next year, besides continuing medical support for North Korea.

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