Parasitic Diseases as the Cause of Death of Prisoners of War during the Korean War (1950-1953)
- Sun Huh
- The Korean journal of parasitology
PURPOSE This study aimed at analyzing the causes of death of prisoners of war (POWs) during the Korean War (1950-1953) who fought for the Communist side (North Korea and the People's Republic of China). In 1998, the United States Department of Defense released new information about the prisoners including, 7,614 deaths of the POW during the Korean War. The data on the causes of death of the POWs during the Korean War provides valuable information on the both the public health and history of the conflict. MATERIALS AND METHODS To analyze the causes of death of the POWs, we classified the clinical diagnosis and findings on 7,614 deaths into 22 chapters, as outlined in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems-10th Revision (ICD-10). Second, we traced changes in the monthly death totals of POWs as well as deaths caused by common infectious diseases and external causes of death including injury over time from August 1950 to September 1953. RESULTS The most common category of causes of deaths of POWs was infectious disease, 5,013 (65.8%) out of 7,614 deaths, followed by external causes including injury, 817 (10.7%). Overall, tuberculosis and dysentery/diarrhea were the most common causes of death. Deaths caused by acute and chronic infection, or external causes showed different patterns of increases and decline over time during the Korean War. CONCLUSION The information and data on POWs' deaths during the Korean War reflects the critical impact of the POWs' living conditions and the effect of public health measures implemented in POW camps during the war.