Health Policy Manag.  2020 Dec;30(4):444-450. 10.4332/KJHPA.2020.30.4.444.

The Dynamics between Accountability Concealment and Problem Solving according to the Governmental Structure: Comparison of Humidifier Disinfectant Case in Korea and Hepatitis C from Tainted Products in Japan

  • 1Department of Public Administration, Chungbuk National University Graduate School, Korea
  • 2Department of Public Administration, College of Social Sciences, Chungbuk National University, Korea
  • 3Law School, Chungbuk National University, Cheongju, Korea


In this study, we compared the incidents of humidifier disinfectants and incidents of mild hepatitis in Japan to highlight the differences in government response in the health care field in terms of “chain of responsibility”.
We examined whether the three mechanisms of action and the chain of responsibility hypothesis were applied to compare the cases of Korea and Japan. The incident of Japan occurred in 1987 in Misawa city, Aomori prefecture. In the 1990s, the safety of blood products increased dramatically. However, relief for infected victims was neglected. Green Cross did not notify the parties. In Korea, in the spring of 2011, a number of lung disease patients were accidentally admitted to a hospital in Seoul, and a female patient with respiratory failure symptoms expired. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted animal tests and the Ministry of Health and Welfare issued an order for forced collection of humidifier disinfectants.
In the case of Japan, the Ministry of Health and Welfare had to take responsibility for follow-up measures such as the investigation of the cause, so it was tied to a “chain of responsibility”. However, in the case of Korea, the Ministry of Health and Welfare was free from the chain.
Through the comparison between the cases of Japan and Korea, we confirmed that whether or not a government organization chooses to conceal responsibility depends on its past behavior, which is whether it is free from the chain of responsibility or not. Therefore, it was reaffirmed that an organization (ministry or department) free from the chain of responsibility must exist within the government.


Humidifier disinfectant; Hepatitis C; Fibrinogen; Bureaucracy; Organization behavior
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