◆ Poverty more dangerous than disease...resulting in public indifference

Map of the China-North Korea border region (produced by ASIAPRESS)

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Another reporting partner, living in Hyesan City, Ryanggang Province, gave an interview with ASIAPRESS on January 29.

--What is the reaction to the virus amongst local residents?
A: "Television reports and lectures are repeatedly stressing the importance of preventing infection, but you could say the residents are ‘indifferent’. The ones talking about the coronavirus are the rich, who have a lot to live for. The poor don't care one way or another."

--So common people are not interested?
A: "The reaction is 'Those who will die, will die. And those who will live, will live.' You could say that they see no difference between dying from infectious disease or from starving to death. "

For ordinary North Koreans, surviving their current living conditions is a more pressing matter than surviving an, as yet, unknown epidemic. In other words, poverty is seen as a greater threat than a potential outbreak.

The reporting partner ended by saying, "There was a case of typhoid fever in the Seonghu neighborhood of Hyesan reported on the 29th. Quarantine officers and officials from the clinic have posted warnings that read: 'Make sure to boil river water before drinking it.'"

As North Korea still does not provide its people with clean drinking water, health and quarantine authorities may have to address typhoid and coronavirus epidemics concurrently and will likely be kept very busy.

※Interviews were conducted using smuggled Chinese mobile phones.

Editor’s notes on North Korean reporters

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