February 25, 2024

A look into the DPRK mental health system

How North Korea uses the practice of psychiatry to reinforce societal values

Like much of the professional working population, mental health professionals in North Korea are ideological warriors. As reported in North Korean news articles the past year, mental health professionals in North Korea have diagnosed South Korean President Park Geun-hye with an incurable mental illness. Citing her “coldness,” “solitude” and “unsophisticated and servile” practices with foreign countries, one North Korean psychologist calls it a combination of catatonic schizophrenia and paranoid schizophrenia, claiming that the “only prescription left” is to remove her from the presidency and separate her from society.

The practices of assigning mental disorders to outsiders is an all-too-familiar occurrence in a North Korean press very reluctant to report on the nation’s own cases of mental illness. In a country that prides itself as being the second-happiest place in the world, it is no surprise that topics related to mental health patients in North Korea rarely come up. Moreover, outside attempts to discern the state of mental illness-related issues such as suicide have been dubious.