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North Korea's rigid COVID
  来源:苹果蓝号检测  更新时间:2024-05-30 11:45:53
North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un,<strong></strong> second from left, visits a flood-hit village in North Hwanghae Province, the country's state-run Korean Central News Agency reported, Sept. 12. North Korea watchers believe the food crisis in the country has been deteriorating due to the flooding and border lockdowns enacted to prevent spread of COVID-19. Yonhap
North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un, second from left, visits a flood-hit village in North Hwanghae Province, the country's state-run Korean Central News Agency reported, Sept. 12. North Korea watchers believe the food crisis in the country has been deteriorating due to the flooding and border lockdowns enacted to prevent spread of COVID-19. Yonhap

By Jung Da-min

North Korea's protective measures against the spread of COVID-19 have mainly focused on shutting down border areas and placing lockdowns on cities to restrict the movement of residents.

As such strict lockdown measures have also been placed on foreigners residing in the country, many foreign diplomats and aid workers with humanitarian organizations have left North Korea when they have been able.

The departure of the last remaining foreign staffer of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in early December, in particular, drew attention among North Korea watchers who pointed out that foreign humanitarian workers now have a very limited presence in the country.

According to a report by NK News, the ICRC staff were among around 40 foreign diplomats and humanitarian workers who exited North Korea, and this departure followed a prior group of around 30 foreigners leaving in early November.

The latest mass exodus of foreigners came amid strict coronavirus lockdowns in North Korea. In early December, the country's state-run Korean Central News Agency reported, "The emergency anti-epidemic units in the DPRK are now toughening the top-class emergency measures to thoroughly check the inroads of COVID-19." The DPRK is the initials of North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

North Korea watchers said the country's strict lockdown measures against the COVID-19 pandemic which included a policy to force foreigners to return to their home countries are also related to the upcoming eighth Congress of the country's ruling Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) in January.

They said the North Korean authorities would want to avoid unexpected situations they would not be able to control, such as a virus outbreak in the foreign community or foreigners witnessing suspicious virus cases among North Koreans.

North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un, second from left, visits a flood-hit village in North Hwanghae Province, the country's state-run Korean Central News Agency reported, Sept. 12. North Korea watchers believe the food crisis in the country has been deteriorating due to the flooding and border lockdowns enacted to prevent spread of COVID-19. Yonhap
Residents of Gaeseong, near the border with the South, applaud during a ceremony to receive special aid packages of food and medical equipment delivered by North Korea's ruling Workers' Party of Korea, Aug. 7, after the party imposed a lockdown there due to COVID-19 concerns, the country's state-run Korean Central News Agency said, Aug. 10. Yonhap

Hong Min, director of the North Korean Research Division at the Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU), said although the North Korean authorities have claimed there have been zero confirmed cases of the coronavirus, they could feel a sense of crisis in terms of allowing foreigners to remain in the country.

"When the eighth Congress of the WPK is around the corner, concerns could have risen from the North Korean leadership that it would not be able to promote the zero confirmed cases of the virus as its greatest achievement when it has no other achievements," Hong said.

"Although it is hard to generalize the COVID-19 situation in the North with the disparity of information, with some reports saying the situation is serious while others say it is still manageable, it seems the situation could be similar to past cholera outbreaks in the country. Rumors among North Korean residents that 20,000 or 40,000 people died due to COVID-19 could be a sign for such a situation."

Fyodor Tertitskiy, a leading researcher at Kookmin University's Institute for Korean Studies, said that he believes there are two factors influencing such a deportation policy against foreigners.

"First, the DPRK is genuinely concerned about the pandemic and the authorities are doing their best to stop the problem. Second, Pyongyang has always been distrustful of the outside world and recently ― since the failure in Hanoi, to be precise ― this trend has been greatly amplified," Tertitskiy said.

"Foreigners can see things they are not supposed to and cause trouble. Better to force them to go. Of course, commoners would not benefit from this policy, but given what we know about the DPRK, it is hardly surprising that the authorities do not prioritize their interests."

North Korea watchers said although North Korea's COVID-19 protective measures have led to a mass exodus of foreign aid workers, it does not mean the country would no longer receive humanitarian aid from the international community. In fact, humanitarian organizations which recently left North Korea said they were not leaving permanently and would continue their activities from abroad or resume their presence in the country as soon as possible.

The analysts, however, said a fundamental problem with the humanitarian crisis in the country was more about the country's rigid lockdown measures without advanced quarantine or medical systems to properly deal with the spread of the virus.

North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un, second from left, visits a flood-hit village in North Hwanghae Province, the country's state-run Korean Central News Agency reported, Sept. 12. North Korea watchers believe the food crisis in the country has been deteriorating due to the flooding and border lockdowns enacted to prevent spread of COVID-19. Yonhap
Residents of Pyongyang, the capital city of North Korea, get their temperature checked amid strengthened quarantine measures to keep the city virus-free, the country's state-run Korean Central News Agency reported, Sept. 4. Yonhap

Lee Kwang-baek, president of the Unification Media Group and Daily NK, said such rigid lockdown measures by the North Korean authorities have especially put vulnerable members of the country into an extreme situation in which they are deprived of access to food.

"For a case of Hyesan a while ago, the lockdown of the city lasted for more than 20 days, with some saying it continued for 40 days, but the food supply for the residents was not properly processed and the residents were given food with which they could survive on for only about 10 days," Lee said. "There were some cases of children there who had already been malnourished dying during the lockdown."

Lee said North Korea's dealing with the COVID-19 situation should focus more on improving quarantine and medical systems rather than controlling rumors.

North Korea watchers also said the economic situation of the country was deteriorating amid the pandemic.

"The country is now even more closed than it usually is, so my impression can be wrong. But from what I hear, there are people infected with the virus in the North, although the situation is under control," Tertitskiy said. "As for the general situation, the DPRK economy is, according to most optimistic estimates, stagnating (and shrinking according to the rest). Sanctions and the pandemic leave little hope for economic growth in the immediate future."

North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un, second from left, visits a flood-hit village in North Hwanghae Province, the country's state-run Korean Central News Agency reported, Sept. 12. North Korea watchers believe the food crisis in the country has been deteriorating due to the flooding and border lockdowns enacted to prevent spread of COVID-19. Yonhap
Employees at a store selling household goods in Pyongyang spray disinfectant on them as part of protective measures to contain COVID-19, the country's state-run Korean Central News Agency reported, Aug. 24. Yonhap




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