This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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North Korea Claims to Have Zero Cases of COVID-19
The World Health Organization (WHO), on Wednesday, April 8, 2020, defended the claim that North Korea is COVID-19 free. Despite being side-by-side to China and South Korea, which both have reported high numbers. Indeed, this claim appears to be impossible. Yet, WHO stands firmly behind the sentiments of the North Korean government.
True, this is not an impossible claim. Although being so close to China, with over 81 thousand reported cases, it seems unlikely. Especially, considering China is North Korea’s neighbor. Similarly, other neighbors Russia and South Korea, also border them and have had deaths due to it. In short, both countries reported numerous cases. Can the claim be a reality?
The Claim and WHO Could Believe it?
“As of 2 April, 709 people-11 foreigners and 698 nationals-have been tested for COVID-19,” said Dr. Edwin Salvador of WHO. The representative from WHO for the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) furthered the sentiment in an email release. “There are 509 people in quarantine, two foreigners and 507 nationals,” he continued. “Since December 31st, 24, 842 people have been released from quarantine. which includes 380 foreigners.” Salvador insists. Admittedly, I was not aware 380 foreigners were even in North Korea.
In February, North Korea tested 7,300 travelers in over six weeks, claimed WHO. The findings say 141 travelers had high fevers. However, all 141 tested negative for COVID-19. Reuters noted that U.N. human rights experts want sanctions against North Korea’s nuclear program lifted. Furthermore, the decision would ensure food supplies reach hungry populations during the pandemic, but the author does not see the connection.
“We are on lock-down. We are cautious about the spread of the virus. I understand we have no cases, zero cases,” said an undisclosed North Korean diplomat. However, top military officials here in the US beg to differ. The grandiose statement, as General Robert B. Abrams, a US general based in South Korea, believes, is a farce. The general is sure the virus has spread into North Korea. “I’m fairly certain,” said the US general.
A Reason to Lie
North Korea’s economy struggles as it is. Could one imagine the panicked economic state if the DPRK admitted the virus’ existence? Moreover, North Korea’s leading trading partner is China. Thus, COVID-19 has a stigma in North Korea.
Undoubtedly, the people see China’s struggle and do not want to replicate it. Thus, the propaganda chiefs in the DPRK want calm, to help stabilize the economic impact. North Korea wants to continue its trade deals with China. Prices continue to skyrocket, supply and demand in North Korea seem limited. North Korea benefits from exaggerating numbers.
Rather, they benefit from greatly dismissing the numbers, so that the country can rebuild itself. They want to return to business as usual. Some reports say 23 people have perished in North Korea due to COVID-19. Of course those are bare minimum figures.
Yes, the government of North Korea continually tries to stop the spread of the virus. Although the people do not seem to be the narrative. The motive appears to not be about protecting the people. Instead, it is about protecting the reputation of the DPRK.