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Health Characteristics of Elderly North Korean Defectors: 2006-2016 at National Medical Center
Korean J Clin Geri 2019 Jun;20(1):31-37
Published online June 30, 2019;
Copyright © 2019 The Korean Academy of Clinical Geriatrics.

Jong Yun Lee1, Im Seok Koh1, So Hee Lee2, Sung Soo Eun3

1Department of Neurology, National Medical Center, Seoul, Korea; 2Department of Psychiatry, National Medical Center, Seoul, Korea;
3Department of Counseling Psychology, Yongmoon Graduate School of Counseling Psychology, Seoul, Korea
Received October 27, 2018; Revised January 2, 2019; Accepted January 30, 2019.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Background: The number of North Korean defectors (NKDs) exceeded 30,000 in 2016. Although the majority of NKDs is young adults, the number of elderly NKDs is growing and accounts for 4% of total NKDs in 2016. Little is known about health characteristics of elderly NKDs.
Methods: Using the Korean Standard Classification of Diseases, we categorized health characteristics of elderly NKDs between January 2006 and February 2016 at the National Medical Center.
Results: A total of 4,032 NKDs was observed and 11.4% (516 individuals) was ages of 60 year-old and above. In population of ages of 60 year-old and above, diseases of oesophagus, stomach and duodenum were the most common category (27.7%), followed by categories of headache (18.4%), dorsopathies (16.9%), arthrosis (10.7%), diseases of oral cavity, salivary glands and jaws (14.5%), spondylopathies (14.3%), ischemic heart diseases (10.7%), cerebrovascular diseases (10.1%) and mood disorders (9.3%). Compared to the counterpart of ages of less than 60 year-old, the elderly NKDs population utilized frequent office visits and hospitalizations as well as longer hospital stay per hospitalization (all P<0.001). Highest health expenditures were spent in the subgroup of male and ages of 70 and above than any other subgroups (P<0.001).
Conclusion: The elderly NKDs using the National Medical Center had health burdens of digestive, cardiovascular and musculoskeletal system diseases. Mood disorder burdens were also common. Health expenditures were concentrated in the elderly NKDs, especially, male elderly subgroup.
Keywords : Defector, Elderly health, Electronic medical records, North Korea, Practice pattern
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June 2019, 20 (1)