Alarm and scepticism over N Korea claim of being coronavirus free | North Korea News


Seoul, South Korea – Greater than 160 international locations internationally are battling COVID-19, however as coronavirus challenges even the world’s most subtle well being techniques, there’s one nation that claims to don’t have any instances in any respect: North Korea.

“Not one novel coronavirus affected person has emerged,” Track In Bom, an official from North Korea’s emergency well being committee stated final month within the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper. 


However even when North Korea is free from coronavirus, the Kim Jong Un regime just isn’t doing a very good job at convincing the remainder of the world.

In South Korea, analysts and medical consultants are extremely sceptical of Pyongyang’s claims – and people with sources in North Korea stated the virus is already ravaging its method via the nation.

“Although North Korea closed its borders or refused to permit Chinese language or overseas travellers in, it is vitally possible that some North Koreans are already contaminated,” stated Roh Kyoung-ho, a physician on the Nationwide Well being Insurance coverage Service Ilsan Hospital Division of Laboratory Drugs.

“I do not suppose it is even potential to measure instances there as a result of North Korea’s medical system just isn’t well-established or superior.”

Virus verified? 

No one is aware of for positive if anybody in North Korea has already contracted coronavirus, however latest political strikes appear to sign fear in Pyongyang. 

Earlier this month, North Korean chief Kim Jong Un broke months of diplomatic silence by penning a private letter to South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

The letter’s contents weren’t launched, however a briefing from Moon’s senior press secretary acknowledged that it was filled with well-wishes and concern about South Korea’s COVID-19 outbreak. The sudden transfer has some consultants questioning if North Korea is engaged on an enchantment for coronavirus help.

“I feel that the North Koreans would most likely settle for masks or hand sanitiser or respirators, and possibly additionally another types of well being help. And I feel it must be performed for humanitarian causes,” stated Peter Ward, a researcher on the North Korean economic system and author for NK Information. 

“However on the identical time, I feel we must be below no illusions that such humanitarian help will give us any leverage in coping with North Korea by way of denuclearisation.”

Talks over North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities have been on maintain for months after the collapse of a summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump in February final yr.

North Korea has carried out a collection of missile launches since then, most just lately on Saturday, when the state-run KCNA additionally revealed that Kim had obtained a letter from Trump.

A senior White Home official confirmed the letter had been despatched saying it was “in line with efforts to interact international leaders throughout the ongoing pandemic,” based on Reuters.

Search engine optimization Jae-pyoung, an activist initially from North Korea who now heads the Seoul-based Affiliation of North Korean Defectors, stated that he had heard experiences of COVID-19 in North Korea. 

“I’ve spoken straight with individuals in North Korea and have heard that North Korea declared a state of emergency,” Search engine optimization stated.

“I heard that the primary case in North Korea was confirmed on January 27, and that the Folks’s Military locked down roads and railways in provincial cities, and that individuals weren’t even in a position to stroll within the streets.”

Data popping out of North Korea’s tightly managed borders is commonly scarce and laborious to confirm.

Nonetheless, Search engine optimization claims he has obtained messages from sources stating that face masks are being smuggled into the nation via China, and that masks from South Korea are being offered on the black market and given as presents to high-ranking officers.

And due to the nation’s restricted entry to check kits, North Korea is commonly basing its analysis on sufferers’ signs, he stated.

“Common, on a regular basis North Korean individuals do not actually learn about this virus,” Search engine optimization stated. “In North Korea, they’re simply seeing it as some scary illness.”

North Korea

North Korean chief Kim Jong Un final week addressed a groundbreaking ceremony for the brand new Pyongyang Normal Hospital [KCNA via Reuters]

Journalists and researchers have additionally heard about an outbreak.

Robert Lauler, a former NGO employee and English editor on the Day by day NK, a web based publication that has contacts in North Korea, stated its sources reported 82 individuals in quarantine and 23 useless from COVID-19 within the nation.

“That data is from a few weeks in the past,” Lauler stated.

“Final week, we additionally ran a narrative a couple of army report that acknowledged that round virtually 200 troopers had died from signs that seemed to be coronavirus. However in all these instances, the numbers we put out usually are not essentially 100 % from coronavirus. The sources we now have recommend that there was an outbreak and that persons are dying.”

Threat of devastation

A coronavirus outbreak could be devastating to the North Korean individuals and an economic system that’s already struggling below financial sanctions. 

“We’re speaking about an incredible stage of devastation to the North Korean economic system and notably to the breadbasket area in North Korea, which is on the northwestern aspect of the nation,” Lauler stated. “I am pessimistic … On condition that sanctions and all the opposite circumstances are nonetheless in place, it would not actually bode nicely for the economic system going ahead.”

As an authoritarian state, the North Korean authorities does have the facility to unilaterally order individuals into lockdown or cease journey all through the nation. Some overseas diplomats had been reportedly pressured into quarantine, for instance, and in the end flown in another country after being launched.

North Korea

Swedish ambassador to North Korea Joachim Bergstrom poses for a selfie in Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung Sq. on March 3, after being allowed to depart following a month-long quarantine imposed on overseas diplomats over coronavirus fears [Joachim Bergstrom via Reuters]

North Korea is already susceptible to devastation due to final yr’s blows from Hurricane Lingling and African Swine Fever. Furthermore, North Korea’s weak healthcare infrastructure would most likely be overwhelmed by a fast unfold of COVID-19.

“Outdoors of Pyongyang and Hamhung, I imagine there are just about no medical establishments the place on a regular basis individuals can simply get remedy,” Search engine optimization stated. “Most cities wouldn’t have an ambulance or transportation for sufferers, and many individuals who quarantine would have to take action at house.” 

Malnutrition and illness throughout North Korea have been rising because the center of 2019, when harvests had been considerably broken by droughts and floods. Greater than 10 million individuals suffered from “extreme meals shortages,” based on the UN.

“Given the comparatively low ranges of diet within the nation and the power illness charges, you’ll think about the fatality charge could be greater in North Korea than quite a lot of different locations,” Ward stated.

That’s the reason he believes North Korea is protecting its suspected outbreak a secret from the remainder of the world.

“The federal government is worried a couple of public consciousness of a critical outbreak that would kill a whole bunch of 1000’s of individuals,” he stated. “They’re attempting to keep away from social panic and social instability.”

Mitch S Shin contributed to this report.

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