Kim Jong Un slams officials for being 'irresponsible' as Covid causes 'great upheaval' in North Korea

The country has supposedly reached out to China for help.

Matthias Ang | May 17, 2022, 07:01 PM

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North Korea's Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un, has criticised the response of his country's officials to the outbreak of Covid-19 and mobilised the country's military, AP reported.

Over a million people have contracted a "fever" while 50 deaths have been reported, according to the BBC, citing North Korean state media.

North Korea has not used the term Covid as the country likely does not have enough test kits to confirm the presence of the coronavirus, according to Bloomberg.

Officials slammed by Kim for not executing emergency order properly

Rodong Sinmun, the official paper of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, reported that Kim convened an emergency state meeting on May 15 in which he slammed officials for their "irresponsible work attitude" as well as the organisation and execution of their response.

Kim's criticism pertained to an emergency order issued by the country's Politburo which called for the immediate release and distribution of state reserves of medicine, and for pharmacies to switch over to a 24-hour operating system.

The North Korean leader highlighted that the order had yet to be "properly" carried out and issued an order for the military medics of North Korea's People's Army to help stabilise the supply of medicine in Pyongyang.

Following the meeting, he visited pharmacies in the capital to "acquaint" himself with medical supplies.

Spectre of famine raised by Covid-19 outbreak

Kim said the spread of the fever is causing a "great upheaval" to the country. Outside of North Korea, the scale of the Covid-19 outbreak has also been suspected by experts to be far greater than what state media is describing.

The BBC reported that fears of a famine have also been raised over the outbreak's impact on agricultural workers.

North Korea previously suffered a famine in the 1990s.

Currently, an estimated 11 million of the country's 26-million strong population are malnourished, according to the World Food Programme.

There are therefore serious implications for the country if food production is crippled as a result of Covid-19 infecting agricultural workers.

North Korea has repeatedly rejected Covid-19 vaccines

AP further reported that South Korea's President, Yoon Suk Yeol, has offered vaccines, medical supplies and healthcare personnel to North Korea.

However, North Korea has not accepted the offer, and has not made any request to South Korea for help.

It has also rejected vaccines offered by the World Health Organisation's COVAX programme, with international monitoring requirements highlighted as a likely factor.

In addition, North Korea rejected nearly 3 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine offered by China in 2021, Nikkei Asia reported.

North Korea has supposedly turned to China for help

However, following a worsening of its Covid situation, North Korea has reached out to China for help through its diplomatic channel, South Korean media Yonhap News reported.

While exact details remain unclear, the outlet quoted a diplomatic source which suggested that the communication included a request for Covid-19 supplies and equipment.

Nikkei Asia further noted that Rodong Sinmun has cited China as a country to emulate given its "anti-epidemic successes and experience."

China has also pledged its support to North Korea during this time.

On May 12, one of the spokespersons for China's Foreign Minister, Zhao Lijian, was quoted as saying:

"As the DPRK's comrade, neighbor and friend, China is ready to go all-out to provide support and assistance to the DPRK in fighting the virus."

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Top photo from Rodong Sinmun via KCNA