Health Care in Hell

When I was a prison doctor, my patients -- the prisoners -- would often try moral blackmail. If I did not give them what they wanted, they said, they would kill someone, and then it would be on my conscience.

I never gave in to the blackmail, and eventually the prisoners abandoned the attempt. But I always had a niggling fear that they might carry out their threat. The fact that they were responsible for their own actions was never sufficient to allay it entirely.

North Korea is the international blackmailer par excellence. An article in The Lancet for July 31 titled "North Korea’s health system in disarray" is subtitled “Food shortages, international sanctions, and a lack of funding have pushed North Korea’s health system past breaking point." A little later we read that “fears are increasing that North Korea is on the verge of another famine as a result of cuts in international aid …”

It seems, then, that those principally responsible for the situation in which 45 per cent of children are stunted because of malnutrition and 9 million people lack enough food are foreigners. This is, in effect, to accept the viewpoint of the blackmailer. Though the article cannot be said to be positively sympathetic to the regime, there is not a single word in it about what the regime might have done to bring this catastrophic situation about. There is nothing about its economic and agricultural policies, which have been shown the world over to bring about permanent shortage and acute famine wherever and whenever they are tried, to say nothing of its total concentration on military might and the production of nuclear weapons. It is perfectly obvious that if the North Korean regime were really worried about famine and the health of its population, all it would have to do is dismantle itself.