Why is it that whenever the media decides to run their puff pieces on authoritarian supposed socialist countries they always have to point out that they have free health care?:
The heart of this city, once famous for its Dickensian darkness, now pulsates with neon.
Glossy new construction downtown has altered the Pyongyang skyline. Inside supermarkets where shopgirls wear faux French designer labels, people with money can buy Italian wine, Swiss chocolates, kiwifruit imported from New Zealand and fresh-baked croissants. They can get facials, lie in tanning booths, play a round of mini golf or sip cappuccinos.
Nearly 2 million people are using cell phones. Computer shops can’t keep up with demand for North Korea’s locally distributed tablet computer, popularly known here as “iPads.” A shiny new cancer institute features a $900,000 X-ray machine imported from Europe.
Pyongyang has long been a city apart from the rest of North Korea, the showcase capital dubbed a “socialist fairyland” by state media.
But a year after new leader Kim Jong Un promised publicly to bring an end to the “era of belt-tightening” and economic hardship in North Korea, the gap between the haves and have-nots so far has only grown with Pyongyang’s transformation.
Beyond the paved main streets of the capital, life remains grindingly tough. Food is rationed, electricity is a precious commodity and people get around by walking, cycling or hopping into the backs of trucks. Most homes lack running water or plumbing. Health care is free, but aid workers say medicine is in short supply. [Associated Press]
What about the quality of the care? One Free Korea has an extensive posting on North Korea’s health care system based on this Amnesty International report:
Amputation and other major surgeries carried out without anaesthesia are just one indication of the dire state of North Korea’s healthcare system, a new Amnesty International report has found.
The Crumbling state of health care in North Korea draws on interviews with North Koreans and health workers to paint a picture of barely-functioning hospitals void of medicines and epidemics brought on by malnutrition.
Witnesses described hospitals where hypodermic needles were not sterilized and sheets were not regularly washed.
“North Korea has failed to provide for the most basic health and survival needs of its people. This is especially true of those who are too poor to pay for medical care,” said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Asia-Pacific.
According to the World Health Organization’s last available figures, North Korea spent less on healthcare than any other country in the world – under US$1 per person per year in total.
The North Korean government still claims that its healthcare system is free for all, but many witnesses told Amnesty International that they have had to pay for all services since the 1990s, with doctors usually paid in cigarettes, alcohol or food for the most basic consults, and taking cash for tests or surgery.
The report found that many North Koreans bypass doctors altogether, going straight to the markets to buy medicine, self-medicating according to their own guesswork or the advice of market vendors. The North Korean authorities recently banned a highly addictive narcotic painkiller than many North Koreans routinely used as a cure-all. [Amnesty International]
You can read much more at the link, but as the Amnesty report shows health care in North Korea is not free and the services people get is rudimentary causing people to seek self medication. This self medication has led to a nation filled with meth addicts. It is reports like this that cause people to question if the AP bureau in Pyongyang is nothing more than a propaganda piece to an international audience for the Kim regime.