Journal of Educational Evaluation for Health Professions (2012-12-01)

North Korean defectors seeking health certification to take the national medical licensing examination in the Republic of Korea: figures and procedures

  • Yoon Hee Kim

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 9
p. 12


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In May 2011, the Ministry of Unification of the Republic of Korea (Korea) announced that 21,165 defectors from Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) had settled in Korea. Since healthcare workers are counted among these defectors, it is necessary to provide them with a pathway to certification to work in Korea. This report summarizes the vetting and approval process defectors from North Korea must pass through to be eligible to take the national medical licensing examination. Defectors must pass an oral test conducted by the National Health Personnel Licensing Examination Board to be eligible to sit for the exam. From 2002 to August 2011, 41 North Korean defectors applied for the approval process to take the exam. Twenty-nine were approved (70.7%): 23 physicians, 1 dentist, 2 oriental medical doctor, 1 nurse, and 2 pharmacists. Out of 29 approved, 11 passed the licensing examination (39.3%). This report also highlights the difficulty in assessing North Korean defectors' eligibility by oral test, and suggests that adequate competency should be emphasized to recognize their unique abilities as healthcare personnel.