◆ Residents left with unstable livelihoods
The reporting partner from North Pyongan Province explained the domestic situation on July 29, saying, “In this atmosphere, the authorities are cracking down on all movements. Those caught traveling without permission are arrested and sent to labor camps. The markets are already facing a terrible recession...what will happen now that there are restrictions on the movement of cargo and people?”
Meanwhile, the reporting partner from North Hamkyung Province said of the local atmosphere, “Maybe because they are concerned about anxiety spreading among residents, the authorities are not giving details about the numbers of deaths or infections. They are only promoting strengthened quarantine measures. Residents are hoping that if they eat a lot of red pepper paste, kimchi, and garlic, they will not get infected by the coronavirus. People are quite resigned though and say, ‘Those who will die will die and those who will live will live.’ It remains to be seen whether the authorities’ measures will work.”
◆ Authorities might declare that a North Korean defector was the source of the coronavirus
North Korean officials announced on July 27 that they had placed the city of Kaesong under lockdown after a North Korean defector had secretly returned from South Korea on July 19 with “symptoms of coronavirus.” On July 25, Kim Jong-un attended an urgently-held meeting of the Workers’ Party and declared the situation to be an emergency.
Given that the general public has now been notified of coronavirus outbreaks, it is expected that an official announcement will be released in the near future. The official announcement may suggest that the defector’s illegal crossing from the South was the source of the infection. However, the outbreak locations, as shared with residents at inminban meetings, point to a different reality.
In addition, the US-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) and Reuters reported on an announcement made by the Russian Embassy in Pyongyang on July 29. According to these reports, the North Korean authorities have demanded that foreign residents not leave Pyongyang, wear masks at all times, and refrain from holding large meetings.
※ ASIAPRESS contacts its reporting partners in North Korea through smuggled Chinese mobile phones.
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