Kim Slams North Korea’s Virus Response

A health worker checks temperatures as part of anti-COVID-19 procedures at a Pyongyang secondary school. North Korea, June 22, 2021. Image: Kim Won Jin/AFP/Getty
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A health worker checks temperatures as part of anti-COVID-19 procedures at a Pyongyang secondary school. North Korea, June 22, 2021. Image: Kim Won Jin/AFP/Getty

In vague yet cutting terms, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un berated and fired top officials yesterday for causing a “great crisis” in their incompetent, “lazy” approach to anti-virus measures, according to state media reports from a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party.
 
The comments are the first time North Korea has publicly suggested the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak since July 2020, when a man was found to have entered the country from South Korea, NK News reports. An outbreak was never confirmed.
 
Experts are deeply skeptical of North Korea’s persistent claims to have seen zero coronavirus infections, despite sharing a border with China and carrying out 30,000 tests, AP reports.
 
Between the lines: “This could mean mass infections or some sort of situation where a lot of people were put at direct risk of infections”—but North Korea will never admit to an infection, says Hong Min, a senior analyst at Seoul’s Korea Institute for National Unification.
 
Others say the vague comments could signal a political shakeup or be a response to breaches of the country’s strict lockdown measures.
 
North Korea officially cut off traffic to and from China and Russia in early 2020, Kyodo News reports.

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