Hold on to your hats, folks, for a weird assessment of North Korea.
The Wall Street Journal warns that the item it published originated from the respected news agency Reuters and not the satirical publication The Onion; Blogger News compares it with Michael Moore’s movie Sicko which extols the virtues of Cuba’s health care system.
Central to the story is Hong Kong-born (1947) Dr. Margaret Chan, (Chan Fu-chun) who got her medical degree at the University of Western Ontario (1973-77) and served some 25 years with the Hong Kong department of health before becoming, in 2006, Director-General of the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO).
Being a citizen of China, may or may not have colored Dr. Chan’s view of North Korea, which she recently visited for 2½-days (Monday to Wednesday) at the invitation of the Pyongyang regime.
As a society, North Korea makes the dark side of the moon seem an open book. While acknowledging her visit was tightly controlled, Dr. Chan declared that North Korea’s health care system was “something most other developing countries would envy.” Wow!
She said North Korea “has no lack of doctors and nurses, as we have seen in other developing countries where most of their doctors have migrated to other places.” On average, a “household doctor” attends to 130 families which “do not have to worry about lack of financial resources to access care.”
Dr. Chan said North Korea has problems with “malnutrition,” but on the positive side, she saw no evidence of “obesity.” (Wow! again. She apparently didn’t have an audience with Kim Jong Il, arguably the plumpest man in the country, thanks to his diet of imported lobsters, shark-fin soup and cognac).
It’s doubtful Dr. Chan is as naïve as her remarks might suggest. One hopes she is not endorsing North Korea’s sealed borders, with citizens forbidden to emigrate, as a health care benefit that means lots of doctors and no wait time.
Another “positive” of sealed borders might be that North Korea has no problem with illegal immigrants, like the citizens of Arizona must endure.
Nor is there concern about kids wasting time on the internet or TV games. In general, no one is allowed to travel, or allowed access to outside radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, etc.
If Dr. Chan had thought of it, she might have given credit to Kim Jong Il for reducing obesity by implementing policies that lead to starvation – no fat couch potatoes or overweight kids, as in the U.S. and some Asian countries.
By praising North Korea for being “receptive to engagement with international partners” when it comes to health matters, Dr. Chan is saying that the regime is willing to accept contributions and aid, so long as no strings are attached.
Turn a blind eye to politics; see only what they want you to see.
Perhaps they are chuckling in Pyongyang. Others in WHO should be blushing.
Controversy is no stranger to Dr. Chan. During the Bird Flu epidemic of 1997 when she was director of health in Hong Kong, she sought to reassure people by saying: “I eat chicken every day, don’t panic, everyone.”
People weren’t convinced; she was accused of misleading the public – especially when she brought the epidemic under control by having 1.5 million chickens slaughtered.
By then, one assumes, she had stopped eating them every day.