◆ Rumors spread of infected people, though populace are too poor to buy masks

Meanwhile, rumors appear to be circulating that the coronavirus has already spread to North Korea.

The first reporting partner said, “There are rumors of infected people but we have yet to hear of any patients being quarantined. If you go to the hospital now, all that you can be prescribed is cold medicine. As the country’s medical infrastructure is under-developed, doctors are not even able to run the proper tests to distinguish if a patient has the coronavirus or the common cold.”

The reporting partner went on, “The TV announcements are telling us to wear masks but maybe only 1 in 10 people are actually doing so. Although Chinese masks are sold in the markets, each one costs 5 RMB, with good ones costing up to 12 yuan (1 RMB is equivalent to 169 S. Korean won). A kilogram of rice costs 3.6 yuan, so citizens don’t want to spend money on expensive masks. It’s not that masks are in short supply.”

The Kim Jong-un regime is focused on preventing the coronavirus from spreading into North Korea. On the other hand, the authorities seem to be making no effort to inform the public about prevention measures. According to reporting partners, North Korean hospitals appear to have no capabilities for diagnosing or treating patients. In addition, there is the danger that infected citizens will not report their symptoms for fear of being quarantined.

If the government takes no steps to publicize information about the virus, there is a possibility of the infection spreading across the country and causing mass panic as it did in China. (Kang Ji-won)

Map of the Chinese-North Korean border region (produced by ASIAPRESS)

Editor’s notes on North Korean reporters

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