Intended for healthcare professionals


Global health engagement with North Korea

BMJ 2018; 361 doi: (Published 08 June 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;361:k2547
  1. John J Park, Knox fellow1,
  2. Hee Young Shin, professor2,
  3. Rifat Atun, professor of global health systems3
  1. 1Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA
  2. 2Institute for Health and Unification Studies, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seoul, Republic of Korea
  3. 3Harvard University, Boston, MA, USA
  1. Correspondence to: J J Park john.park{at}

Rare chance to improve the health of a hard to reach population

The recent rapprochement between South Korea and North Korea (officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) is an exciting opportunity for the peoples of the two countries and for global health, especially if diplomatic engagement with the United States produces favourable results.1 At the time of writing, the first meeting between a sitting US president and North Korea’s supreme leader is scheduled for 12 June in Singapore.

Previous inter-Korean summits, in 2000 and 2007,23 led to agreements by the two Korean leaders to cooperate on health, medical services, agriculture, and environmental protection, which received widespread support. Similar developments to improve population health are possible after the new talks, but two major challenges must be overcome.

Firstly, the current health status and needs of the North Korean population …

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