An example of North Korea’s overexaggerated efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. In the photo, people are wearing protective suits while working to repair a dyke along the Yalu River. Taken by ASIAPRESS in October 2020.

North Korean authorities distributed food to people in a number of cities starting on May 22. Anxiety has risen in the country as many people have been unable to acquire food due to urban lockdowns and quarantines amid efforts by the authorities to contain COVID-19. There have even been deaths caused by the lack of food. The food distributions appear to be a belated attempt by the government to head off more tragedy.
(KANG Ji-won, ISHIMARU Jiro)

◆ Deaths by starvation occur due to lockdowns and quarantines

The Kim Jong-un regime acknowledged an outbreak of COVID-19 on May 12. The disease control measures the regime implemented soon after led to the closure of markets, people being quarantined in their homes, and even entire cities or districts being locked down. Bans on movement made it difficult for many people to obtain food.

Facing an increase in public discontent along with the deaths of elderly people and even children due to starvation, the authorities finally began distributing food. ASIAPRESS confirmed through several reporting partners throughout North Korea that food distributions took place in the northern region of the country, including in some urban areas. ASIAPRESS was unable to determine whether the distributions of food are being conducted nationwide.

In a state-run food store in a county in North Hamgyung Province, one kilogram of white rice went for KPW 4,000 and one kilogram of corn went for KPW 2,000 as of around May 22. The store sold five days’ worth of food for families at a price slightly cheaper than market prices were before the lockdown. According to a reporting partner in the county, “Households facing starvation were given a couple of days’ worth of food for free.”

※ KPW 1,000 is around KRW 184.