Misdiagnosis and Misrepresentations
Application of the Right-to-Health Framework in North Korea
The "right-to-health" framework asserts that everyone has the right to the "highest attainable standard of health." In this article, the authors explore how the right-to-health framework can aid our understanding of the state of health in North Korea today. In recent reports, human rights organizations have accused the North Korean state of violating its people's right to health. Critical examination of these reports, however, reveals a myopic focus on the North Korean state and a limited consideration of the relevant political and historical context in which the right to health of North Koreans may be violated. Furthermore, by selectively applying the right-to-health framework to the public health situation in North Korea, while ignoring other low-income countries with similar health problems, the human rights reports politicize humanitarian conditions and use public health problems to justify hostile policies toward North Korea. To help improve health and welfare in North Korea, the right-to-health framework should be applied with greater consideration of the geopolitical context and take actors other than the North Korean government into consideration. Analyses based on the right-to-health framework should also incorporate studies done by the broader movement for peace and justice in the Korean peninsula and be developed in consultation with peace and justice organizations.