COVID-19 situation in North Korea likely “not good,” South’s Prime Minister says
The situation surrounding COVID-19 in North Korea is likely “not good,” South Korea’s Prime Minister said Friday, while reporting that Pyongyang is yet to request formal help from Seoul in stemming a potential outbreak of the virus within its territory.
Speaking to international media at the Seoul Foreign Correspondent’s Club (SFCC), Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun appeared to question the North’s long-standing insistence that it remains free from the virus.
Asked for his assessment of those claims and Pyongyang’s ability to deal with a potential outbreak, Chung said the “situation is probably not good in North Korea,” while accepting that, in his official capacity as Prime Minister, “I have no choice but to respect what North Korea officially says.”
The Prime Minister’s comments represent potentially the first public admission from an ROK government official that the DPRK may be suffering from an outbreak of COVID-19, which has of Friday infected 9332 people in the South.
A top U.S. commander in South Korea told reporters earlier in the month, however, that the U.S. was now “fairly certain” that the coronavirus pandemic had already entered the DPRK.
Despite this, Prime Minister Chung said Friday, Pyongyang is yet to ask Seoul for any cooperation or help in dealing with COVID-19.
“No cooperation has happened,” he said. “And we have not received any requests [regarding joint quarantine efforts] yet. However, if ever such need arises, [we] will positively review it.”
The news comes a day after the South Korean President Moon Jae-in the previous day participated in a video G20 “2020 Extraordinary Virtual Leaders Summit,” in which he said that Seoul “remains committed to continuously improving and refining quarantine measures.”
“We must cooperate in providing support to nations with lesser developed healthcare systems,” Moon said at the virtual summit.
“With regard to the international community’s endeavors to… ramp up the capacity of developing countries to combat epidemics, the ROK will be there every step of the way.”
North Korea has for weeks claimed that it remains a “clean land” free from COVID-19, with leader Kim Jong Un earlier in the month even sending a letter to the South Korean President offering his condolences to those fighting the coronavirus outbreak.
A Blue House official at the time said that the letter did not contain any response to recent South Korean proposals for the two Koreas to cooperate in the field of public health, while admitting that it was “hard for us to reveal the exact content.”
Prime Minister Chung’s press conference came just a few hours after President Moon delivered a speech at the 5th West Sea Defense Day celebrations, in which he emphasized the role of “strong national security” in the country’s journey towards peace.
The live streamed annual ceremony, which followed another memorial event for the 10th anniversary of the sinking of ROKS Cheonan on Thursday, was held in a reduced capacity in light of the South Korean government’s efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“We must win without fail if we fight, and if we can win without fighting, we must choose that road,” the South Korean President said.
“Peace is the way to repay the sacrifice the heroes made. The government is building strong national security and peace on the basis of strong military and impregnable national defense power.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
The situation surrounding COVID-19 in North Korea is likely "not good," South Korea's Prime Minister said Friday, while reporting that Pyongyang is yet to request formal help from Seoul in stemming a potential outbreak of the virus within its territory.
Speaking to international media at the Seoul Foreign Correspondent's Club (SFCC), Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun appeared to question the North's long-standing insistence that it remains free from the virus.