J Korean Med Sci.  2019 Sep;34(36):e227. 10.3346/jkms.2019.34.e227.

Malaria Incidence of the Regions Adjacent to the Demilitarized Zone in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, 2004–2016

  • 1Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, Suwon, Korea. hkcheong@skku.edu


Vivax malaria reemerged in the Korean peninsula in 1990s beginning from the western border area and spread across both Koreas rapidly with its peak incidences reported on the early 2000s. There have been few reports on the malaria incidence in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) that provides detailed epidemiological features. The purpose of this study was to describe the time trends and spatial distribution of malaria in North Korea with comparison to those in South Korean regions across the border.
The incidence of malaria in each province of North Korea from 2004 to 2016 was estimated based on data from domestic and international health authorities. Consistency of the data was evaluated by calculating the ratio of malaria cases in each province to the total cases each year. We also compared the changes in malaria incidence over time in South and North Korea adjacent to the demilitarized zone.
In North Korea, the incidence of malaria in the three provinces adjacent to the demilitarized zone was the highest (52.1−315.3 per 100,000), followed by Pyeonganbuk-do (14.7−113.5 per 100,000), where railways and road networks were connected to northern China. The incidence of malaria in each province of North Korea reported after 2011 was more consistent than when compared with previous annual data, and there was also a positive correlation between changes in incidence over time when compared with malaria incidence in South Korea (r = 0.855, r = 0.596).
The malaria report of North Korea was relatively consistent in its spatiotemporal tendency since 2011, suggesting improvement of the quality of the surveillance data. The strong correlation between North and South Korean malaria incidence at regional level suggests that collaboration between both sides are essential for the successful elimination of malaria in the Korean peninsula.


Vivax Malaria; North Korea; South Korea; Demilitarized Zone; Cross-Border Transmission

MeSH Terms

Cooperative Behavior
Democratic People's Republic of Korea*
Malaria, Vivax
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