Kim Jong Un says North Korea prevented coronavirus from making inroads

Cheryl Sanders
July 3, 2020

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has explained how his country managed to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak despite a worldwide health crisis.

In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends a politburo meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang, North Korea Thursday, June 2, 2020.

The politburo meeting on Thursday comes as many hard-hit countries are easing lockdowns, even as the world moves quickly past the grim milestones of 10 million confirmed infections and 500,000 deaths.

Analysts say the North is unlikely to have avoided the contagion and that its ramshackle health system could struggle to cope with a major outbreak.

He warned against complacency or relaxation in the anti-epidemic effort and urged North Koreans to maintain "maximum alert", KCNA said in a statement.

"He repeatedly warned that hasty relief of anti-epidemic measures will result in unimaginable and irretrievable crisis", KCNA said.

"At the meeting, as the first agenda item they reviewed the work of the past six months for preventing the malignant contagious disease and discussed an issue on further consolidating the present anti-epidemic situation by enhancing the state emergency anti-epidemic work", according to a report carried by KCNA.

Outsiders widely doubt North Korea escaped the pandemic entirely, given its poor health infrastructure and close trade and travel ties to China, where COVID-19 emerged late a year ago.

The comments indicate North Korea will maintain its self-imposed blockade, which has also hit trade with China, its key backer and aid provider.

Experts say the country's self-imposed lockdown is hurting an economy already battered by stringent USA -led sanctions over its nuclear weapons and missile programs.

"It has no choice but to keep its border closed with China, it is something inevitable for the North", said Hong Min, director of the North Korean division at the Korea Institute for National Unification.

Before the coronavirus crisis, more than 40 per cent of people in North Korea were already considered food insecure, with many suffering malnutrition.

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