Kim Jong-un Orders Lockdown as North Korea Reports First Covid Cases

TRAVEL & LIFESTYLE: Kim Jong-un Orders Lockdown as North Korea Reports First Covid Cases

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The news agency did not reveal ​if officials knew how the virus had entered the country.

After closing its borders from the rest of the world for two years, North Korea again began allowing cargo trains to bring in badly needed imports from China early this year. The North also held a huge nighttime military parade late last month in which the soldiers, members of the elite and tens of thousands of people who mobilized to watch the spectacle did not appear to wear masks.

Signs of possible trouble began leaking out soon afterward.

South Korean intelligence officials said last week that the North Korean authorities were ordering people on the streets to return home and stay there. Also last week, Park Jie-won, director of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, said that the North had again banned cargo trains from China from entering his country.

On Thursday, the North Korean news agency said, Mr. Kim called for national unity during the state emergency, telling his people that “unscientific fear, lack of faith and weak will” were a “more dangerous enemy” than the “malicious virus.”

He urged his country to continue to push forward with the bold five-year economic development plan he unfurled during a Workers’ Party congress in January last year. Under that plan, North Koreans have been building residential districts in the capital and greenhouse complexes in provinces.

For Pyongyang to publicly admit to having Covid-19 cases, the public health situation had to have been serious, said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international relations at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.

“The worsening coronavirus situation is a serious challenge for Kim Jong-un, not only in terms of limiting infections, deaths and food disruptions,” Mr. Easley said. “Kim has credited strict social controls and self-imposed international isolation with keeping North Korea safe from Covid. If those signature measures fail, it could be a blow to regime legitimacy.”

The epidemic control measures that North Korea enforced on Thursday could further restrict the traffic of people and goods between towns and factories, and disrupt supplies and production, said Cheong Seong-chang, director of the Center for North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute in South Korea.



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