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N. Korea's border closure likely to increase chronic disease mortality: expert

North Korea 15:19 July 31, 2020

SEOUL, July 31 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's shutdown of borders may help prevent the spread of the coronavirus but is likely to increase the mortality rates of those with chronic illnesses as the border closure could lead to shortages of medicines and other necessities, a professor said Friday.

Lee Yo-han, a public health professor at Ajou University, made the case in a paper carried by the KDI Review of the North Korean Economy magazine published by the state-run Korea Development Institute, saying the border shutdown is expected to affect the operation of local markets known as jangmadang in the North.

"In a country with poor social services or security programs, or in a country where residents have to self-provide basic necessities such as food, water and medicine, the strict lockdown of its borders directly affects the safety and health of the people," Lee said in the paper.

Lee said the closure of the border, though effective in preventing the spread of infectious diseases, may hinder access to medical supplies for patients with chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes.

Lee pointed out that the North's mortality rate is likely to be affected following the lockdown as nearly 80 percent of North Koreans die from chronic diseases.

North Korean people wearing masks ride a train to work in Pyongyang on May 13, 2020, in this image taken from a video aired by North Korea's propaganda website DPRK Today. The airing of the video appears to show that North Korea, which claims it has no coronavirus cases, has successfully handled the global pandemic. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

julesyi@yna.co.kr
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