Jang Hye-won(University of North Korean Studies doctoral program graduate) Love-Sharing Blood Donation Campaign capturefrom “Reunification NOW” Ⓒ KTV broadcasting Not long ago my company held a Love-Sharing Blood Donation Campaign. These days, with the protraction of the COVID-19 pandemic, the supply and demand for blood has been unstable. The number of blood donors decreased by as many as 180,000 people between 2019 and 2020, and it appears that the effort for people to minimize their outings and contact with others has had an impact on blood donations. When I saw the blood donation vehicle near my office, I suddenly remembered North Korea’s blood donation culture. Blood donation culture in North Korea is very collective. First of all, among the people who work in the hospitals, it is hard to find someone who wouldn’t donate blood, do a skin transplant, etc. and medical field professionals regularly share “their own blood and skin for their comrades.” The Rodong Sinmun, Korean Central News Agency and other representative North Korean state news agencies frequently report on the ‘beautiful behavior’ of health workers giving their blood and skin to patients whose lives are in danger. Capture from ⒸKorean Central News Agency(“North Korean doctors who donated their own blood,” SBS News article, Dec. 23, 2020). North Korea uses the expression “su-hyeol” (blood transfusion) rather than “heon-hyeol” (blood donation), and sometimes their culture of collective blood donation leads to situations that are no laughing matter. Especially when large quantities of blood are needed, people at factories, schools, and military units near hospitals are recruited as a group, or the hospital sends out a bloodmobile into the field to urgently collect blood. Of course, the majority take pride in saving other people’s lives and willingly participate, but there are also some people who really fear getting recruited for blood donations. And it’s not so pleasant to get recruited as a group and taken to give blood transfusions regardless of one’s willingness. When I was young, there was a big accident in the area where I lived, and tens of people were taken to the hospital. Word spread that blood supplies were not enough, so immediately, many people were recruited at nearby factories, offices, universities, etc. Workplaces and classes lined up and went together to the hospital. In this atmosphere, not only was it considered cowardly to skip out without a rational excuse, but one could be subjected to criticism. At the time, my friend’s older brother was a university student, and he really hated blood donation, so before his classes ended he secretly went home and ate two packets of laxatives for constipation. Before class ended and the students headed to the hospital to donate blood, my friend’s brother got symptoms from his overdose and had a natural excuse to go home rather than going along to the hospital. It happened that I was doing homework and playing with my friend at her house, so I could see her brother lay down, cover himself with a blanket and pretend to be sick. His mother and I were worried about his illness, and she left the house to go to the pharmacy. As his sister and I looked down at him with concerned expressions, he smiled back bashfully and said, “I’m okay, I didn’t want to go to the hospital so I played hooky (skived)” and he put a finger over his lips to indicate that we shouldn’t tell anyone. Soon after, his mother came home, made him take some medicine, and then she had something else to do so she left again. As if nothing was wrong my friend’s brother jumped up and continued his heroic (?) tale. He explained the circumstances, that he hated donating blood so he took the medicine and created this situation. He saw our surprised expressions and acted as if he was sharing an important secret, speaking in a low, serious voice. “Later, when you two grow up and go to university or a factory or somewhere, this could happen to you too. So if anyone asks your blood type, you have to tell them it is AB.” We asked why we should say AB, and he explained that it was the least likely type to be chosen for blood donation. I said under my breath, “But I’m O-type” and his eyes got wide. “So you have the communist blood type. From now on, wherever you go, never tell anyone that you have O-type. Otherwise, you have to give all your blood,” he said and made me promise. According to my friend’s brother, O-type, which can be given to anyone was a ‘communist blood type,’ and AB type, which can receive from everyone, was a ‘pig blood type.’ After enduring the Arduous March (famine), North Koreans’ nutrition was generally insufficient, so reluctance to donate blood became more serious. Aversion to collective blood donation came to be revealed in public. Some people who didn’t have enough rice to eat said that they would be too faint to work if their blood was taken, so they refused. Since that time blood donation centers appeared, and I heard a rumor that you could sell your blood there. I didn’t experience it myself, but I met someone who said that they really sold their blood. An event for “World Blood Donor’s Day” in North KoreaⒸPyongyang Korean Central News Agency, Yonhap News) Because of the North Korean blood transfusion culture, there is a tendency among North Korean defectors in South Korea to be reluctant to donate blood. When I was in North Korea, if I donated blood in the winter then my fingers felt colder, or in the summer then my fingertips went numb. Now that I mention it, I think I had a vague fear of giving blood. I hope someday a culture will develop in North Korea too, where people donate blood of their own will, not because of public perception or by compulsion.