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Mental Health Issues in North Korea

- North Korea has one of the world's most primitive levels of mental disorder treatment
- Mentally ill patients are called “Number 49 subject”
- Not many people survive in mental hospitals
- Psychiatry is the least popular concentration among medical students
In South Korea, Seoul National Mental Institution's reconstruction and relocation plan has been an issue of contentious debate amongst the community residents since 1995. Last year, South Korea had hard time quelling resistance of the residents opposing the facility's relocation to their community. As observed in this case, South Korea has a negative perception of mental disorder and the treatment facilities. Do North Koreans share this antipathy towards mental disorder with their southern neighbors?
Perception of mental disorder is extremely negative in North Korea. Mentally ill person is called “Number 49” or “Number 49 subject” and put into custody at “Number 49 Prevention Post” (Reference1). The term ‘Number 49' originated from North Korea's ‘Cabinet Decision No. 49 on People with Mental Disorders,' which came into effect in 1965. Ordinary residents whisper to each other saying, “That person is Number 49,” if one has been to a mental hospital. It is not easy for

 

 

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