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Niger J Clin Pract. 2019 Jul;22(7):913-919. doi: 10.4103/njcp.njcp_494_18.

The perceptions and experiences of North Korean refugee doctors concerning the burden of non-communicable diseases in North Korea.

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Division of Family Medicine, Seoul National University Graduate School of Medicine, Seoul, South Korea.
The Office of Medical Research and Academic Affairs, Korea University Medical Center; Association of Healthcare for Korean Unification, Seoul, South Korea.



Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are a major challenge to health and social development in the 21st century, and North Korea is no exception. However, there is a lack of information concerning NCDs in North Korea, and a different approach is needed to understand the NCDs burden there. This study examines the perceptions and experiences of refugee doctors from North Korea concerning the NCDs burden in North Korea.


Focus group discussions were conducted with 10 refugee doctors from North Korea who had been recruited through snowball sampling.


North Korean refugee doctors participating in this study indicated that NCDs are the highest priority diseases, that North Koreans did not appear to have a high level of understanding and knowledge of NCDs, that economic breakdown was the primary cause of the NCDs burden, and that a high priority should be assigned to targeting NCDs in North Korea.


Although the North Korean refugee doctors were medical professionals, they faced serious challenges accessing and managing patients with NCDs. South Korea needs to prepare for a potentially large number of people with NCDs should a freer movement of peoples occur between the two countries.


Non-communicable disease; North Korea; qualitative research; refugee doctor

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