In July, North Korean authorities repeatedly insisted that they were strengthening quarantine measures against the new coronavirus. While repeating claims of "zero infections," the regime called for residents to be on high alert amid concerns of a second wave in the international community. However, an internal document obtained by ASIAPRESS contains information suggesting that there are infections in North Korea, with further information raising suspicions of an infection taking place at a military base south of Pyongyang. (ISHIMARU Jiro/Kang Ji-won)
◆ The Kim Jong-un regime starts to emphasize 'coronavirus prevention'
At a meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party on July 2, Kim Jong-un stressed vigilance against the coronavirus. Since then, the North Korean authorities have insistently claimed to be following thorough prevention measures. The thoroughness of these measures has even been described by some as excessive.
At the July 2 Politburo Expanded Conference, Kim Jong-un said the country had "blocked the inroads of the virus and maintained a stable situation," but expressed a sense of crisis over the global spread of the coronavirus, warning that a "hasty repeal of anti-epidemic measures" or a "relaxation of quarantine measures would lead to an unimaginable and irretrievable crisis."
However, Kim Jong-un's warning feels rather sudden, given the previous domestic situation. Indeed, in June, strict coronavirus measures were being eased.
North Korea banned the internal movement of people and goods after sealing off the Chinese border in late January. In addition, it laid out strong controls, including delaying the opening of the schools' new semester and isolating even those with symptoms of a cold. At the beginning of June, however, school semesters were being resumed and restrictions on mobility were also being slightly eased.
◆ A sudden shift from easing after the politburo meeting, with controls put back in place
However, after Kim Jong-un's report at the aforementioned politburo meeting, North Korea's state media subsequently reported on a series of "coronavirus boundaries."
For example, on July 7, the state-run North Korean government newspaper, the Minju Chosun, wrote, "If we find objects coming in by sea or air, we are making sure to follow stricter regulation and have orders to sterilize or incinerate them as required by quarantine regulations." On July 10, the Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the Workers' Party of Korea, wrote in an editorial on its front page, "It is more important to prevent the contagious epidemic than to secure any other economic outcome...that is the demand of the Party."
On July 17, the Rodong Sinmun also published an article titled "More and more tense, strengthening the emergency quarantine measures." Citing the example of a textile factory in Hamheung, the article specifically pointed out the need to conduct more thorough quarantine measures.
NextPage: ◆ Contents of an internally-disseminated document from June…