Coronavirus News Asia

Congratulate Kim for successful anti-virus push?

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Almost lost from sight during the recent kerfluffle over where Kim Jong Un had disappeared to for nearly three weeks, –and why – was another very big question that is still unanswered even after his May Day reappearance.

We don’t really know how badly or sparingly the Covid-19 pandemic has intruded upon the isolated country.

Possibilities include the following two and many in between:

A. The coronavirus was making such frightening inroads in much or all of North Korea that Kim – perhaps also suffering from other health problems – felt compelled to leave his Pyongyang base and isolate himself at one of his villas in the provinces that are equipped to serve as away-from-home headquarters.

Z. North Korea has done such a thorough job of isolating itself, largely by closing its borders, that it deserves to be included in that often cited list of Asian island and peninsular virus success stories alongside South Korea, Taiwan and (sometimes) Japan.

The North Korean authorities have been relentlessly reminding people to wear masks and otherwise take care to avoid the virus, using broadcasting and face-to-face lectures to spread the exhortations.

However, the regime releases very little of the sort of information that would permit a long-distance count of Covid-19 infection cases and death. Indeed, Pyongyang goes so far as to maintain that the country has experienced no cases at all – a claim belied by unofficial news reports of virus hot spots cropping up here and there, with the major northeastern city of Chongjin especially hard hit.

Draconian ruling

Reading reports from external news organizations that get their news by phone from undercover contacts inside North Korea, one senses an imbalance: Articles telling of damage to the economy caused by or otherwise related to the anti-virus campaign outnumber stories about sick people.

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