Current Situation of Reproductive Health and Health Services in North Korea: Experiences of North Korean Refugees

Sooyoun Kim, Seoul Foundation of Women and Family
Youngtae Cho, Seoul National University
Mary Lee, Seoul National University
Sangik Hwang, Seoul National University

This paper is concerned with how and to what extent famine and economic crises have influenced reproductive health services and behaviors of women since the mid-1990s in North Korea. The data came from (1) a survey with a sample of 202 North Korean refugee women who had just entered South Korea and were housed in a government resettlement center (Hanawon), and (2) in-depth interviews with 16 women and 4 medical personnel who had practiced in North Korea. The survey and interview were designed to ask about these women’s reproductive health-related experiences in North Korea. The findings revealed that North Korean women were highly exposed to seriously abject conditions, such as increasing unsafe abortions, poor contraceptive use and related complications, lack of antenatal/postpartum care, and long-term malnutrition from the country’s weakened health infrastructure. Results reinforce that famine has negative impacts on North Korean women’s sexual and reproductive health and behaviors.

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Presented in Session 80: Fertility and Reproductive Health During/After Bad times