Corona in North Korea: Kim seals cities and provinces – the politics abroad

Covid disaster for Kim!

A few days after the confirmation of the first corona infections in North Korea, the number of fever-related deaths in the country of dictator Kim Jong-un (38) rose to 50, according to official information.

As of Sunday evening (local time), the number of patients with symptoms of fever had risen to more than 1.2 million, state media reported Monday, citing the so-called Emergency Center for Epidemic Prevention. More than half of them would be cured.

Moreover, the country, totally isolated internationally and governed by an authoritarian regime, avoided calling the viral disease by its name. Instead, people kept talking about the “spread of the epidemic”.


People watch an informational program about the Corona wave in the north at a train station in Seoul, South KoreaFoto: Ahn Young-Joon/dpa

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People watch an informational program about the Corona wave in the north at a train station in Seoul, South KoreaPhoto: Ahn Young-Joon/dpa

“Until now, hardly anyone could have imagined that even after 27 months of the corona pandemic, there would still not have been a single infection in North Korea. But I could imagine it myself, because the regime had a strong awareness of the problem very early on,” North Korean expert Christian Taaks of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in Seoul told BILD.

Because: “In view of the only rudimentary health system, the malnutrition of a large part of the population and therefore also the greatly reduced immune and defense systems, the complete isolation of the country was the only solution to perhaps be able to avoid disaster. No one has been able to enter the country since the start of the pandemic, including North Korean nationals. Goods were also rarely imported. But now the catastrophe is still there,” says Taaks.


Kim Jong-un at an emergency Politburo meetingFoto: KCNA/via REUTERS

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Kim Jong-un at an emergency Politburo meetingPhoto: KCNA/via REUTERS

Kim orders military action against Corona

At another emergency meeting of the ruling Labor Party’s Politburo, leader Kim Jong-un reportedly ordered the military to help distribute medicine. However, the deployment should initially be limited to the capital Pyongyang.

Kim had chastised the responsible authorities for failing to ensure an adequate supply of medical resources so far, he added. Among other things, he found out what antipyretics and antibiotics the city pharmacies had in stock and whether they were open 24 hours a day.


The corona epidemic in the north is being followed very closely in South KoreaFoto: Ahn Young-joon/AP

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The corona epidemic in the north is being followed very closely in South KoreaPhoto: Ahn Young-joon/AP

Kim mobilizes two million people

The number of reported fever cases that are actually due to corona disease remained unclear. Experts suspect that North Korea lacks the capacity to conduct mass testing at all.

“There are now constant lockdowns and it is feared that the already problematic supply of a large part of the population will become even more difficult. The impact on the economy is likely to be drastic. Further developments are to be hardly predictable, but the highest alert level is definitely in place now,” says Taaks.

According to reports, North Korea has so far mobilized nearly two million people to fight the epidemic. They are supposed to pass on hygiene information and examine people.

They should ensure that anyone suffering from fever and other “unusual symptoms” is quarantined there and treated. Since Thursday morning, “all provinces, cities and counties nationwide have been completely sealed off in accordance with party and government emergency measures,” he said.

︎ North Korea officially confirmed infections with the pathogen last Thursday for the first time since the outbreak of the corona pandemic more than two years ago. The country had long claimed to be corona-free. However, the information was met with skepticism abroad.


Corona fear rages in the capital PyongyangFoto: -/dpa

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Corona fear rages in the capital PyongyangPhoto: -/dpa

North Korea wants to complete its second nuclear reactor

Meanwhile, Kim Jong-un continues to upgrade.

North Korea has resumed construction work on a second reactor at its controversial Yongbyon nuclear complex after a long hiatus, according to arms control experts in the United States.

Expert Jeffrey Lewis wrote on Twitter that he could not say when the reactor might go into service. “But it’s ten times the size of the existing reactor at Yongbyon – and would produce ten times as much plutonium for nuclear weapons.”


Photo above: work in progress, photo below: state beforeFoto: /AP

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Photo above: work in progress, photo below: state beforePhoto: /AP

A few days ago, Lewis, along with colleagues Joshua Pollack and David Schmerler from the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), released a report on activities at Yongbyon. The CNS conducts research in the field of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

North Korea has laid a pipeline connecting the secondary cooling circuit of the 50-megawatt reactor, dubbed “nuclear plant number 2”, to a pumping station on a nearby river to access water for cooling, according to The report. The line was buried on May 7.

It is a “clear first indicator that North Korea intends to complete the reactor”.

The researchers estimate that once operational, the reactor could produce 55 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium per year, about ten times more than the old 5-megawatt reactor. North Korea’s interest in more plutonium appears to reflect its intention to develop new tactical nuclear weapons.

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