Map of North Korea ( ASIAPRESS)

◆ Sickly, malnourished elderly people are dying

―― Have there been any deaths?

A:  People have died here and there, but I don’t know any specifics. From June 4 to June 6, four people died among people I know who live nearby. I heard people who are sickly and suffering from malnourishment are dying of the virus. Even children are dying.

Our inminban head distributed a message she wrote herself. It said: “Nothing can be done about people who died with preexisting conditions. COVID-19 is causing pain throughout the entire world. Nothing can be done about people who died because they didn’t self-report they were sick.”


―― What happens when people die?

A:  All those who die are cremated. Their families aren’t allowed to see the bodies. Cremation costs RMB 150-200, and the expenses are covered by the government at this point. I’ve heard that there’s not enough gas to burn the bodies properly, and their bones are crushed with hammers before being returned to their families.

※ RMB 100 equals around KRW 19,000


“B,” who lives in a city in North Hamgyung Province, gave ASIAPRESS some information about deaths in the country in early June.

B:  There are many people (suspected) of having COVID-19. Many of those who have died are elderly people and children. Many people died due to the lack of medicine before the spread of the virus. Now, those elderly people who survived are dying of COVID-19. There are many people who have recovered from their fevers, so many believe that COVID-19 is “not a big deal.”

※ It is impossible to confirm whether they died of COVID-19 or not.


――We’ve heard that people are dying of hunger as well.

B:  The government handed down 15 days’ worth of corn to all households in late May. There’s probably been no starvation deaths after that time.

※ 15 days’ worth of food was distributed free-of-charge in Hyesan, Yanggang Province, on around May 25.

※ ASIAPRESS communicates with its reporting partners through Chinese cell phones smuggled into North Korea.

A glimpse into North Korea’s COVID-19 situation (2) Urban lockdowns are slowly being lifted, and people in areas where lockdowns have ended are being sent to farms