Barbed-wire fences have been installed along the area along the Yalu River on the China-North Korea border ostensibly to prevent those infected with COVID-19 from entering the country. A soldier can be seen standing guard in a dilapidated-looking checkpoint. This photo was taken by ASIAPRESS on the Chinese side of the border in July 2021.

The situation in North Korea is changing by the day as the country’s authorities intensify controls over the society to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.

It has been just under two weeks since North Korean authorities acknowledged on May 12 that the country was facing a spread of COVID-19. Through state-run media. the authorities are releasing the data they are collecting on the number of people who have recovered from fevers along with the number of deaths. However, it is difficult to say that these figures accurately reflect the spread of the virus in the country. An ASIAPRESS reporting partner in the northern part of the country has been providing reports on what’s happening since the crisis began. His reports suggest that there are differences in how the authorities are responding to the pandemic in each region of the country and that circumstances in the country are changing day-by-day. (KANG Ji-won / ISHIMARU Jiro)

◆ Musan is locked down…nobody is going to work

The reporting partner, “B,” lives in Musan County, North Hamgyong Province. On May 20, he provided his third report to ASIAPRESS since the start of the crisis. Musan County is a mid-sized city of an estimated 100,000 people situated on the border with China. It also boasts North Korea’s largest iron mine. “B” is a worker at the mine.

According to a report given by “B” on May 14, the markets and businesses in Musan County were still operating and people were able to leave their homes despite some restrictions. A report provided by “B” on May 17, however, revealed that the markets in the city had closed. His May 20 report disclosed that the county’s largest company, the Musan Mine, had shut down. It appears that the lockdowns and quarantines in the city are gradually intensifying. What follows below are answers “B” gave to questions posed by ASIAPRESS.


―― Are people still going to work in Musan County?

B:  The area is practically locked down. It appears there’s been COVID-19 cases discovered in Musan County. Even in the county’s administrative center (Musan-eup), there have been several COVID-19 cases, which led to the closure of all businesses except for collective farms. Even the Musan Mine has been shut down. In Musan-eup, nobody is allowed to leave there homes or walk around. The only people walking around are inspection teams.


―― Tell us more about the lockdown.

B:  People are not allowed to walk around, and the military and police and security agencies have been mobilized to enforce the ban on movement. In areas that have been locked down, nobody is allowed to leave their homes and these areas have been divided into districts to better enforce controls. I’ve heard that there’s been a rash of infections in Chongjin, but it’s unclear exactly what’s going on.

※ Chongjin is located in North Hamgyong Province and is the country’s third largest city with an estimated population of around 700,000 people.