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[Newsmaker] N. Korea reinforces border control amid mounting COVID-19 worries

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 Sunday it was reinforcing border lockdown to prevent the coronavirus pandemic from spreading into its territory. The regime still claims zero COVID-19 cases.

“Every effort is made to keep strong border closures and to ensure everyone stick to antivirus measures and report anything out of ordinary,” the official Korean Central News Agency, said adding it was enforcing tighter controls over the inter-Korean border.

Earlier this month, a North Korean man, now in Seoul’s custody, crossed the border on foot into the South.

Pyongyang highlighted it was instructing major fish farms to follow more stringent antivirus guidelines so as not to allow contaminated sea waste to trigger a virus outbreak.

Seoul’s National Intelligence Service told the parliament Nov. 27 that leader Kim Jong-un’s response to COVID-19 fears appears irrational, citing Pyongyang’s suspension of salt fields as one clear example. The North reportedly banned them over concerns they could contaminate their water.

The spy agency added the North’s continued blocking of food supplies, including rice, into the country that still remains unable to feed its own population demonstrates Kim was not thinking through his options to combat the pandemic.

Kim expects to convene a party congress in January and set a comprehensive economic initiative there to jumpstart the flailing economy. The meeting however could be delayed given the aggravating virus concerns in Pyongyang, Seoul’s spy agency said.

The isolated country has from time to time described “self-help” as the way for its people to power through obstacles ahead, like COVID-19, and encouraged them to follow through on the state-driven campaign.

By Choi Si-young (