North Korean state media on Friday reiterated claim that the country has not seen any cases of COVID-19 within its borders, crediting leader Kim Jong Un’s leadership in the public health sector.
In a front-page editorial detailing issues discussed at a recent Politburo meeting, party daily the Rodong Sinmun emphasized the need for North Koreans to “constantly intensify the nationwide anti-epidemic work.”
“Although the worldwide pandemic has not yet entered our country… all the officials, Party members and other working people should not slacken vigilance… but more strictly observe the rules and regulations,” it read.
Saturday’s Political Bureau of the Central Committee (CC) of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) meeting was led by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the run-up to the rubber-stamp parliamentary session the following day.
The Politburo meeting reportedly adopted a “joint resolution” — by the party central committee, the State Affairs Commission (SAC), and the Cabinet — on measures for “protecting the life and safety of our people from the worldwide epidemic disease.”
The state budget on Sunday’s parliamentary session was to serve to implement such decisions, among other things, the Rodong reported Monday.
North Korea for months now has continued to argue that the country is a “clean land” free of coronavirus.
Despite such claims, however, it appeared this week that Pyongyang is still maintaining its strict anti-pandemic and quarantine measures following the Politburo meeting that saw the issue placed top of the agenda.
The fourth page of Friday’s party daily was dedicated to Kim Jong Un and his predecessors’ feats in the public health sector, and there was also a section that specifically informs domestic readers of the North’s measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — something omitted in recent days after having been routine for weeks.
Referring to how preventive measures against the novel coronavirus are being “powerfully” pursued nationwide, it said that the system serves as a means to provide “sensitive quarantine materials” such as “test medicines” to relevant units.
In an article warning against “loosening the tension at all,” the Rodong also said that Women’s Union workers are working hard in South Hamgyong, South Hwanghae, and North Hwanghae provinces to “thoroughly prevent COVID-19.”
Meanwhile, a video uploaded to YouTube over the weekend by pro-North Korea outlet the Choson Sinbo featured an interview with one of the reporters who allegedly came back from Pyongyang recently after 30-days of isolation at the Pyongyang Hotel.
Ro Kum Sun, the journalist who reportedly stayed in Pyongyang from early September, said in Korean that she flew out of the North on March 9 from Pyongyang to Vladivostok after a month under quarantine, along with embassy and international organization staff who also left that day.
Due to COVID-19 quarantine measures and the border lockdown, “Koryo Air planes could not fly,” she added.
The reporter described her time under state-mandated isolation at the Pyongyang Hotel as a “fight with fear” and “loneliness.”
“Usually in February, there are many tourists at the Pyongyang Hotel because of holiday events. But with the border closure in late January, all tourists were blocked [from coming into Pyongyang,” she said.
“There were only five guests who were staying at the Pyongyang Hotel,” the reporter added, explaining how all five were banned from having “unnecessary conversations,” required to wear masks, and prohibited from walking around outside.
“I couldn’t go outside at all for 30 days… and was checked if I had any fever over 37.5 degrees,” Ro said in the video, explaining how you would be “transported immediately to an isolation facility in the city of Phyongsong” if such a fever was detected.
“It was very tough, as I had to fight with the fear of even catching a regular cold.”
The hotel staff were also isolated in the hotel for a month, Ro added, due to their having been in contact with potentially-infected guests.
The guests and the staff “couldn’t go home at all… it was a battle with loneliness,” she said, also adding no drinks or coffee service at the second, third, and fourth floor of the hotel was available.
The WHO did not respond to NK News‘s inquiry as to whether any mass-testing for COVID-19 had been done after this date, especially ahead of Sunday’s parliamentary session, when more than 600 officials visited the North Korean capital from all over the country.
North Korea has maintained a border shutdown since late January, suspending trains, flights, and banning tourism, while it appears that routes such as Dandong to Sinuiju and Dalian to Nampho remain open only for incoming aid items.
North Korean state media on Friday reiterated claim that the country has not seen any cases of COVID-19 within its borders, crediting leader Kim Jong Un's leadership in the public health sector.
In a front-page editorial detailing issues discussed at a recent Politburo meeting, party daily the Rodong Sinmun emphasized the need for North Koreans to "constantly intensify the nationwide anti-epidemic work."
Jeongmin Kim is the Lead Correspondent at NK News, based in Seoul. Kim covers inter-Korean and DPRK-related foreign, defense and humanitarian affairs, and has covered the 2022 ROK Presidential election on the ground. Prior to joining NK News, she worked for the CSIS Korea Chair in Washington D.C. and Reuters news agency's Seoul bureau. Follow her on Twitter @jeongminnkim