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◆ Buying and freezing dead pigs to sell secretly

African ASF has also spread in the South and North Hamgyong Provinces, killing many pigs. A reporting partner investigated the situation in the Kimchaek, Gilju, and Hamhung areas.

At a cooperative farm in the Kimchaek region, all 8 pigs on the farm died. However, the meat was sold secretly.

On a farm in Cheongam-ri, Gilju County, where 20 pigs were being raised, 12 pigs died over the course of the last month. The remaining 8 pigs were slaughtered and sold in a hurry. As pigs died all around the region, the price of pork temporarily fell to just 7 RMB (about 1,170 South Korean won) per kilogram. This price drop was apparently due to the sudden increase in supply of recently-slaughtered pigs. Since then, however, with almost all pigs slaughtered and sold, the price of pork has skyrocketed from 14 RMB (about 2,300 South Korean won) to 20 RMB (about 3,350 South Korean won) per kilogram.

Even in the urban area of Hamhung, ASF has spread through the suburbs, killing pigs being raised by individuals. However, state agencies, including quarantine centers, have not conducted any investigations nor done any prevention work in the area. When a pig falls victim to the virus, authorities are supposed to come to confiscate the dead animal. Breeders, though, are not reporting the deaths of their animals and are secretly butchering the pigs to sell. In Pyongyang, it is said that one can even obtain a permit for selling dead pigs by just paying $30 to a quarantine center.

In Hamhung, newly-wealthy investors, as well as individuals with freezers, are buying dead pigs for dirt cheap to preserve in freezers and sell secretly later. This supply is steadily decreasing however.

As police and quarantine officials are only inspecting for pork at road-side checkpoints, illegal pork vendors can easily hand over bribes to pass through. Even if officers catch someone transporting pork, they do not even ask where the pork is from or how the pig died.

The reporting partner who investigated in Hamhung said, “Residents have yet to understand the seriousness of ASF. As people cannot be infected, they believe it’s harmless. They think that if one of their pigs dies, it should be simply eaten or sold.”

The reporting partner continued, “People with a bit of knowledge on the matter try to raise their pigs in isolation but the best they can do to quarantine their animals is to cover the pens with wood. These people know that a lot of pigs have died, so even a little pig can be worth its weight in gold. As such, some are doing their best to raise their pigs indoors, in isolation.”

Exactly how many pigs in North Korea have died from the disease is unknown as the North Korean authorities do not publish such data. However, Seo Hoon, head of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, recently reported to the National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee on September 24, that “ASF has spread throughout North Korea, totally killing off the pigs of North Pyongan Province.”

Editor’s notes on North Korean reporters
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