North Korea, Infamous for Controversies, Secures Pivotal Role in World Health Organization, Sparking International Outrage

Originally published June 2, 2023 8:16 am PDT

In a surprising development, the North Korean regime, notorious for its humanitarian and nuclear controversies, has secured a pivotal role in the World Health Organization (WHO).

In the organization’s annual meeting that concluded on May 30, North Korea, under Kim Jong Un’s leadership, was elected to the Executive Board alongside nine other nations, according to a report from

This latest development has provoked international criticism, as the role places North Korea in a significant position within global health governance.

“What this means is that one of the world’s most horrific regimes is now a part of a group that sets and enforces the standards and norms for the global governance of health care. It is an absurd episode for a key U.N. agency that is in much need of self-reflection and reform,” Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of Geneva-based independent human rights organization, UN Watch, commented.

North Korea’s appointment to the WHO Executive Board grants it a say in critical decisions within the organization.

It is now in a position to influence the selection of the WHO’s six regional directors, and potentially the successor of the current Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who is serving his final term.

The election took place in a secret ballot, with North Korea securing the position with 123 votes in favor, while 13 abstained, and 6 ballots were spoiled. 35 countries did not participate in the voting.

The proceedings departed from the usual consensus-based decision-making due to Russia contesting Ukraine’s nomination, leading to a vote.

Neuer stressed the U.N.’s misstep, stating: “The right signal from the U.N. to the North Korean regime would be an overdue referral to the International Criminal Court, and a call to investigate and prosecute Kim Jon Un’s heinous crimes against humanity — not an election to an organization that sets the standards for global health.”

Countries joining North Korea on the executive board include Australia, Barbados, Cameroon, Comoros, Lesotho, Qatar, Switzerland, Togo, and Ukraine, UN Watch notes.

As per the tenure norms, North Korea will retain its place on the executive board for a minimum of three years.

This duration allows Kim Jong Un to significantly influence the WHO’s strategies and personnel decisions.

Reflecting on the integrity of the WHO, Neuer underscored, “If the WHO is to be effective and credible, the agency must be held to the highest standards. The election of North Korea sends the worst possible message, at a precarious time for the global agency.”

These developments could mark a turning point for the WHO, warranting close scrutiny.

Recently, some U.S. officials have made their apprehensions clear regarding a potential international treaty between the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US, without the approval of the Senate.

Senator Ron Johnson, along with 21 other Senators, asserted that such a treaty would be illegal and illegitimate.

Former U.S. Representative Michelle Bachmann was on site at the May 2023 WHO meetings, issuing warnings about the impending WHO vote on the controversial treaty.

If the treaty is enacted and enforced, the newly elected 10-member WHO Executive Board, including countries such as North Korea, Australia, and Cameroon, would have significant influence over U.S. healthcare.

Dr. Richard Bartlett, a prominent medical expert, has raised deep concerns about this.

He recalled how “Australia’s COVID response was inhumane and tyrannical. The Australian government had COVID ‘quarantine‘ concentration camps. Unarmed, healthy citizens were arrested by armed police teams and brought back to these camps. The workforce had COVID shot mandates.”

Similarly, he brought up the historical issues of other nations elected to the board.

He mentioned, “Cameroon has a long history of cannibalism and is certainly not a leader in global healthcare excellence.”

And about North Korea, he highlighted, “North Korea has government induced mass starvation of their citizens and a long rapsheet of human rights violations and atrocities.”

Concerning Ukraine, currently facing a military invasion and dealing with unsecured bio labs, he questioned, “Ukraine’s capital is being bombed by an invading army. The Ukrainian government is in distress. Can the Ukrainian government adapt and keep up with a future rapidly evolving healthcare crisis on the other side of the globe?”

Lastly, he critically pointed out the lack of direct patient care experience of WHO Director, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and his decision to classify Monkeypox as a worldwide crisis despite medical experts’ advice.

Dr. Bartlett stated, “Should the WHO Director Tedros who doesn’t take care of patients, is not a physician, nurse, pharmacist, therapist direct care of Americans? He dismissed advice of medical experts and designated Monkeypox a worldwide crisis.”

These remarks from Dr. Bartlett accentuate the growing concerns over the influence of the newly elected WHO Executive Board on American healthcare policies and practices.