“White Jungle” Exposes the Reality of the Korean Medical World!
By Noh Yeon-jung, Guest Reporter
Patients usually receive 30 seconds of treatment in a polyclinic in Korea. Some patients are not able to enter a hospital because they cannot afford to pay 20 million won, a hospitalization deposit. Meanwhile, private hospitals employ temporary workers to cut down personnel expenses, and a general hospital regularly sends doctors text messages to notify them of a number of inpatients and outpatients of the day as if it is a sales achievement. This is not a fictional story but the reality we face. “White Jungle” is the first Korean medical documentary made by a doctor currently working in the field and also its another name for the medical world that is becoming commercialized by capital and mega-corporations. This film is being called the Korean version of “Sicko” (2007), an American medical documentary made by Michael Moore “White Jungle” criticizes the Korean health care system in a satirical way.
In the beginning of the film, a mid-aged man is suffering from diabetes. Despite his severe condition, he denies going to a general hospital because of high medical fees. And elderly women are enduring their own pains because they could not afford to buy medicine. Some might think it only costs a couple of 10,000 won notes, but it would be a huge burden to those who fight for basic living costs. This burden is not limited to the lower class since everyone has the possibility of getting a severe illness during their lives. I was deeply shocked and depressed looking murderously at the medical expenses dragging down a successful businessman to a shabby tiny room, and patients who were often charged excessive medical fees without even knowing it. The director said that she felt such frustration when she saw patients who gave up their lives because of the financial pressure.
However, the film represents the voice of not only patients but also doctors. Doctors confess their inner conflict which comes from working in the environment that pushes them so hard to think about money rather than the commitment of their professional jobs. Capitalized hospitals put doctors in a line in the order of the amount of money they make. So then, why do more and more hospitals and doctors conduct unnecessary and costly examinations? According to the film, the deep root of the problem is systematic deficiency. Since the government has shifted the responsibility for taking care of the public’s health to a capital market, corporate giants who have invested in the hospitals only consider making a profit which puts the real intent of medical treatment into the shadows.
I was ignorant of the privatization of health care until I watch “White Jungle” because it seems to be unrelated to me as someone who rarely goes to see a doctor. Now, I believe this is the serious matter for all of us as it is related to our lives. The film ends with a phrase, “This film is dedicated to the alienated patients of this land”. An alienated patient could be me or you reading this article now. “White Jungle” is easy to follow even for someone who does not know much about the health care system. Whether you agree or disagree with it, it is highly recommended you watch it. It will make you think about this very crucial issue in our society.