Kim Jong Un thanks North Koreans for ‘zero’ COVID-19 cases in the country
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un thanked citizens for the country’s ‘zero’ COVID-19 cases during a speech aired on state TV on Saturday, with thousands of military parade attendees and participants also foregoing protective masks.
“Thank you for your good health, with nobody having fallen victim to the malignant virus,” Kim said.
The North Korean leader also wished South Korea a fast recovery from COVID-19 outbreaks and said he hopes the two countries can soon “hold hands” once again.
The warm remarks suggest that North Korea is still interested in dialogue with the South, despite months of tensions. Meanwhile, the lack of protective wear projects a sense of confidence from the DPRK, which would be highly vulnerable to any potential outbreak.
North Korea’s Korean Central Television (KCTV) began broadcasting Kim’s speech and other celebrations meant to honor the 75th founding anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) around 7:00 p.m. KST on Saturday evening.
For months, North Korea’s COVID-19 situation has been shrouded in mystery: North Korean state media repeatedly claimed that the country was free of the virus, which routinely drew skepticism from analysts who argued otherwise. As news of COVID-19 first started spreading around the world, the DPRK was also quick to officially shut down its borders in January — a move that significantly cut down on the nation’s trade and whittled down Pyongyang’s expat and aid worker population.
So far, North Korea allegedly tested a total of 3,374 people for COVID-19 as of Sept. 17, with all tests coming up “negative” for the virus, the World Health Organization (WHO) told NK News. State media has repeatedly shown people wearing masks, but has also circulated images of large-scale gatherings happening despite the country’s alleged quarantine measures. Meanwhile, tour groups frequently working in the country believe that borders won’t reopen until spring next year at the earliest — or until a vaccine is globally circulated.
Last month, North Korean military personnel shot and killed a 47-year-old South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries worker, allegedly in compliance with the country’s COVID-19-related protection orders. The incident came after Gen. Robert B. Abrams of the United Nations Command reported that North Korea placed “shoot-to-kill” on its border, but several uncertainties still surround the case. Pyongyang has so far ignored Seoul’s call for a joint investigation, though Kim Jong Un himself issued an apology.
Just a few months earlier in July, the DPRK also temporarily locked down the border city of Kaesong and issued a “top class alert” after a North Korean defector living in the South illegally crossed the border. The defector, who was “suspected” of carrying COVID-19, was later tested and reportedly came up with “inconclusive” results, according to North Korean state media. WHO later stated that North Korea also told about the “inconclusive” test, but it’s not clear whether the organization was able to independently verify the results.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un thanked citizens for the country's 'zero' COVID-19 cases during a speech aired on state TV on Saturday, with thousands of military parade attendees and participants also foregoing protective masks.
"Thank you for your good health, with nobody having fallen victim to the malignant virus," Kim said.