Defectors’ overall health lags behind, study shows

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Defectors’ overall health lags behind, study shows

North Korean defectors are more susceptible to certain diseases compared to their South Korean counterparts, according to a study released on Tuesday by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The analysis found that defectors are at least three times more likely to contract Hepatitis B than South Koreans, for instance.

In the survey, which questioned 1,588 defectors of all ages living in the South, 12.4 percent of males were suspected or confirmed to have Hepatitis B, while only 3.6 percent of South Korean men have contracted it.

Likewise, 10.4 percent of female defectors were suspected to have hepatitis B, whereas 2.7 percent of their South Koreans counterparts were diagnosed with the disease.

North Korean defectors were also determined to be more vulnerable to tuberculosis.

The survey said that 6.6 percent of male North Korean defectors and 3.4 percent of female defectors are believed to suffer from tuberculosis.

By contrast, only 0.409 percent of South Koreans are diagnosed with TB, according to the World Health Organization.

The survey was made public upon the request of Saenuri Party Rep. Kim Jae-won, who serves on a parliamentary health and welfare committee.

“The report shows that defectors’ health is poor and that there are huge discrepancies between them and South Koreans,” Kim said, calling for more consistent monitoring by the government.

“When the defectors come out of [the Hanawon resettlement center], the government doesn’t take enough care of them when it comes to their health,” he said.

Hanawon is a state-run facility dedicated to providing North Korean defectors with instructions required to adapt to life in the South.

“Even after they are out of the center, the government should keep track of their health and help treat any diseases,” Kim added.

Additionally, the average height for male defectors older than 19 was 6.5 centimeters (2.5 inches) shorter than the average for South Korean men. For women, that gap was 3.8 centimeters. The male defectors surveyed also weighed an average of 12.3 kilograms (27.1 pounds) less than their South Korean counterparts, while female defectors were 5.5 kilograms less than South Korean women.

BY PARK EUN-JEE [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]



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