11th grader provides medical relief in North Korea

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11th grader provides medical relief in North Korea

Julia Henning, Online Editor

This past summer, junior Gracie Kim travelled to North Korea with Pacific Northwest Surgical Outreach to help with medical relief and set up a diabetes clinic.

Kim heard about an organization that sends people internationally for medical relief, and after talking to one of their representatives, she joined a team of doctors and nurses to go to North Korea for ten days.

The group had to travel from South Korea to China and then over the border into North Korea from there. Kim found that the officers at the border were very intimidating, and because she is not a native Korean speaker, it was hard to track conversations between her organization and the guards. “I wasn’t scared but I was definitely intimidated because it was hard to communicate.”

Once in the country, the group was required to have a guard to escort them around the city. Kim immediately noticed large differences between North Korea and the United States. “There are no vehicles anywhere and their common spaces are very large because everyone either walks or bikes everywhere. You can see in the houses that many are very poor. Some of them only live off of 15 cents a month.” 

The group that Kim traveled with set up the diabetes clinic and also toured and visited hospitals and orphanages in the country. Kim observed the large amount of people that did not have access to health care due to lack of both facilities and money. “A lot of the patients at the hospital weren’t able to get treatment, and even if they knew what their diagnosis was, they still weren’t able to get it fixed.”

Kim plans to return next summer to finish the setup for the clinic.