While the coronavirus outbreak in South Korea is causing major problems, North Korea continues to deny that there are any cases in their state.
Medical care in North Korea is poor; there are very few trained doctors. If you do manage to see a doctor, you’ll most likely have to pay for their services, even though officially health care is free. Doctors frequently go unpaid, or receive a very low salary.
If someone does fall ill, a family member will usually go to the jangmadang (the black market) and try to find someone who sells medicines – which are often without labels, and the ingredients unknown. The family member describe the symptoms and then they receive ‘medical advice’ from the seller, along with the medicines they say will help. But the seller isn’t a medical professional and doesn’t have every kind of medicine available.
As well as Bibles, clothing and food, Open Doors workers help to get medicines to North Korean believers who have managed to escape the country. After receiving some of these medicines, one secret North Korean believer said, “Even though the cold winter has come, the hearts of our believers are full of hot and passionate waves. As the light of the sun shines through the cracks and adds warmth, in the same way we are touched by your love and warmth that flows through our hearts. Our hearts are overwhelmed and we cannot stop our tears from flowing.
“We thank you for your sacrifice, warmth and consideration to take care of us. We feel your warm heart and mind every minute and second. We do our best to serve our Lord and live faithful life.”
Our brothers and sisters in North Korea are facing a new kind of danger in the form of the coronavirus – please pray for their protection and for the provision of the right medical treatment.
North Korean defector Timothy Cho* knows just how dangerous viral diseases are to those living in poverty in the country. He says, “If there really are people infected with the coronavirus in North Korea, this will have a serious impact. The country has almost no medical facilities or medications. This was one of the reasons why cholera and SARS caused the deaths of many vulnerable children on the streets of North Korea. I was one of those children infected with cholera, and was just waiting for death, without food and medicine.”
*Name changed for security reasons