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[Newsmaker] N. Korea reiterates ‘self-help’ in antivirus effort

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un chairs a politburo meeting Oct. 5, 2020. (KCNA-Yonhap)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un chairs a politburo meeting Oct. 5, 2020. (KCNA-Yonhap)
North Korea said Monday that self-help is the way to power through the obstacles ahead, like the coronavirus pandemic, and no one should challenge that direction.

“Self-help is the way of life we’ve maintained to this day and it’s in our blood. We display that and there is nothing we cannot overcome,” the official state newspaper said, urging Workers’ Party members to be a brigade moving forward to grab victory.

The North still claims it has yet to report an infection, though experts widely discredit the assertion. The regime has accepted test kits and medical supplies from international aid groups, including the World Health Organization.

But Pyongyang continues to brush aside Seoul’s offers to work together to combat the pandemic. The unification minister here earlier called for sharing COVID-19 vaccines with the North, but the proposal went unanswered.

The North is seen as anxious to show some economic achievements and calm public frustration over the pandemic and typhoon fallout, as it nears a party congress in January. Leader Kim Jong-un is set to reveal a comprehensive road map to jump-start the country’s moribund economy.

The state newspaper also highlighted the new homes built for typhoon-hit North Koreans this year, calling them one of the feats of the country’s 80-day campaign to bolster the economy. The campaign is North Korea’s way of rallying the people behind its goals.

But North Korea watchers cast doubt over whether the recovery efforts are as successful as the report said. In October, many displaced North Koreans disputed their success, according to Radio Free Asia.

“Except for the ones that Kim personally directed recovery for, most homes were left barely inhabitable because it was a job half done,” one anonymous source said, referring to leader Kim Jong-un’s personal inspection of the August recovery efforts in the hardest-hit area, North Hwanghae Province.

The source added, “The new homes have no water or heating. And those that do have something wrong elsewhere.”

By Choi Si-young (siyoungchoi@heraldcorp.com)
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